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Space Microchips Achieve Crucial Certification to Prove Mission Worthiness

To ensure space-worthiness, our 45nm ASICs just completed three years of rigorous testing to achieve QML V certification.
Cleared for blast off! Our 45nm microchips are now QML V certified for space.

When it comes to space missions and exploration, system reliability and operational performance are paramount to a satellite’s success for many reasons.  Primarily, operating in a challenging environment like space leaves little recourse for recovery if problems occur. And once a satellite launches, there are few solutions available to manage part failures without compromising system operation. As a result of these critical factors, satellite developers and operators are typically risk averse and only look to use products that can assure mission performance over many years.

At BAE Systems, we understood the challenging requirements we would need to meet in order to prove that our next-generation 45 nanometer (nm) Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) microchips were ready to be deployed on satellites. To ensure they were qualified as space-worthy technology, our 45nm ASICs just completed three years of rigorous testing, where they were thoroughly evaluated against stringent criteria by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to achieve Qualified Manufacturers Listing (QML) certification.

These revolutionary chips completed QML Level V testing, which is the industry’s most strenuous analysis and proves their ability to perform reliably and successfully in orbit. As part of this process, the chips’ integrated circuits were severely stressed by a variety of factors – such as 2,000 to 5,000 hours of voltage and temperature changes to mimic the harsh and complex environment of space.

But passing these tests wasn’t the only stipulation for achieving QML V certification.  The results also needed to be reviewed and approved by several government agencies. To satisfy all certification requirements, the data was reviewed and approved by multiple government agencies including NASA’s Electrical, Electronic, Electro-Mechanical (EEE) Parts Assurance Group. Having now achieved QML V certification, our microchips have passed a key milestone that clears the path for use in space, and they’re ready to bring higher processing capabilities to on-orbit communications, surveillance, and tracking systems.

“We’re designing and building powerful chips that are fundamental to the success of a space mission, and these new 45nm chips revolutionize what can be accomplished during these missions,” said Ian McDonald, director of Space Products and Processing for BAE Systems. “Achieving QML V certification took tremendous effort, which included working closely with our customers to meet all the necessary requirements. It’s an assurance that our 45nm ASIC technology is qualified, reliable, and ready to help industry accomplish its next great progression in space.”

These revolutionary 45nm ASICs pack 10 times more functionality and performance into the same size as currently qualified chips, and it was pivotal that this technology receive the green light for use on complex space missions. And with the microchips’ ability to enable simultaneous functionality and higher processing capability to planetary exploration missions, who knows what space discoveries our ASICs could lead to in the future.