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A Tiny Boost

Our microelectronic chips provide big benefits for space discovery.

Key to the Future

Microelectronics Microelectronics

Space exploration is key to future scientific discovery and protecting the United States’ national security, and we’re leading the way in enabling longer mission-critical space journeys with the release of two new microelectronic chips.

We recently introduced two next-generation specialized chips for space environments. These application-specific integrated circuits, or ASICs, are made in the miniature scale of 45-nanometer processing technology. With this leap forward, the ASICs can shrink to one-tenth the size of a current chip, meaning they pack more functionality and performance into the same size device than existing ones. This advancement improves capability and efficiency for spacecraft, which translates into increased mission time. New products developed from this technology will enable higher processing capability for on-orbit communications, surveillance and tracking, planetary exploration and weather and classified satellite missions, to name a few.

Impossible? We think not

Designing microelectronics for space missions is a complex job, because spacecraft are continually bombarded with radiation and heat from the sun but also have to function in the frigid environment of space. In some environments, a spacecraft gets a lot of heat on one side, while the other side is extremely cold – similar to standing in front of a campfire on a cold night.

The ability to make devices faster and smaller while ensuring they can perform in a harsh radiation environment is a mission-critical activity, and we’re ahead of the game.

Dave Rea, manager of Microelectronics Programs

 

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Microelectronic chips Microelectronic chips

In today’s power-constrained space missions, these smaller, faster and power-efficient chips deliver reliable and secure performance to previously unachievable space applications.

The development of 45-nanometer technology will position our space business for growth. Last year, we decided to transition to a “fabless” radiation-hardened electronics business model, closing the Semiconductor Technology Center foundry and outsourcing its wafer fabrication.

The market demand for the products that match the manufacturing capability of our in-house foundry just wasn’t there. By working with other commercial foundries to produce these products, we will be able to provide the higher-performing, more-power-efficient products that our customers are looking for.