Pulse news magazine

Volume 16, June 2016

Protection from above

An employee in Manassas prepares the KISS-103 selective soldering machine for production.
BAE Systems is responding to the United States’ need for more resiliency in space products.

Outer space may not only be the key to scientific discovery – it may also be the key to protecting the United States’ national security. Today, people are more reliant on space capabilities than ever before. They are at the heart of every aspect of civilian and military lives. As a nation, the American people are very much aware of that, and so are the country’s adversaries.

One might think about safety in terms of hostilities on the ground or data breaches in the cyber world. Rarely does one consider the threats that exist in space – threats such as adversaries sending assets into space to block GPS signals, which could damage satellites, disrupt communication or compromise data. Other threats, including space debris and radiation that can accelerate the aging of the electronic parts and materials, can also damage space assets.

The need to be resilient – to survive in the space environment by adapting, maneuvering, defending and protecting space assets – is more important than ever. Regardless of an asset’s mission, anything put into space needs to be closely monitored.

“With more nations, debris, activity and hardware in space, it’s imperative that we step up our activity to provide the resiliency necessary to protect our assets so they’re available when needed,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, BAE Systems Electronic Systems sector’s director of Space Products & Processing.

Electronic Systems (ES) has a 25-year legacy of providing radiation-hardened products that can withstand the harsh environments of outer space. To date, the sector has delivered more than 750 rad-hard computers that are currently operating on more than 250 satellites and powering exploration mission systems, including the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. ES’ next-generation 45-nanometer Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) microchips recently completed three years of rigorous testing, where they were thoroughly evaluated against stringent criteria by the Defense Logistics Agency to achieve Qualified Manufacturers Listing certification.

The 45-nm 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.


close up view of ASICs chip under development
close up view of ASICs chip under development

“We’re designing and building powerful chips that are fundamental to the success of a space mission, and these new 45-nm chips revolutionize what can be accomplished during these missions,” said Gonzalez.  

What remains essential is that, in this new era, ES continues to develop resilient space systems and technologies that preserve the United States’ ability to operate from space. More and more of people’s day-to-day lives depends on what is happening above – from GPS signals to satellite TV. An absence of adequate resiliency in space could mean a direct impact to our world.


close up view of ASICs chip under development
close up view of ASICs chip under development


“Space presents unique challenges and opportunities – as we learn more, explore more and understand more about the environment and our capabilities, there’s no telling what we’ll be able to control and create from space,” said Gonzalez. 

By Maria Felix, Communications, Greenlawn, New York