Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Breaking the Logjam: Improving Data Download from Outer Space

21.05.2010
Satellites in space keyed to detect nuclear events and environmental gasses currently face a kind of data logjam because their increasingly powerful sensors produce more information than their available bandwidth can easily transmit.

Experiments conducted by Sandia National Laboratories at the International Space Station preliminarily indicate that the problem could be remedied by orbiting more complex computer chips to pre-reduce the large data stream.

But while increased satellite on-board computing capabilities ideally would mean that only the most useful information would be transmitted to Earth, an unresolved question had been how well the latest in computing electronics would fare in the harsh environment of outer space.

The fear had been that high-energy particles might collide with a transistor and, by changing a zero to a one, alter the value of an individual calculation, producing incorrect results in what could be matters of national security or critical environmental calculations.

The Sandia experiments are providing insights into the effects of high-energy radiation on these computing electronics, enabling mitigation of these potentially crippling effects in future processing-architecture designs.

“We’re getting true on-orbit data from a space environment,” said Dave Bullington, Sandia’s lead engineer on the experiment taking place in low Earth orbit. “Data messages are being sent back every four minutes.”

How it works
NASA’s “Materials on the International Space Station Experiment” (MISSE) program, under the direction of the Naval Research Laboratory, provides opportunities for low-risk, quick and inexpensive flight tests of materials and equipment in space aboard the ISS.

MISSE provides suitcase-like containers called Passive Experiment Containers to hold multiple experiments. These are mounted by astronauts on the exterior of the ISS, thus exposing the experiments to the rigors of space.

The seventh in an ongoing series of MISSE flights, MISSE 7 for the first time offered researchers power and data connections provided by the ISS from which to run actively powered experiments.

On Nov. 16, 2009, the space shuttle launched carrying the MISSE 7 equipment and on Nov. 23, astronauts manually deployed these containers on the exterior of the ISS. Sandia has been receiving data from this research payload ever since.

At the heart of these new computing architectures are powerful yet flexible computing chips, configurable to support different missions. These chips are called reconfigurable field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Since these FPGAs are reconfigurable rather than limited to a predefined architecture, their circuits can be overwritten, somewhat the way a read-write compact disk has more possible uses than a read-only disk. This makes prototyping easier and also permits changing missions on satellites previously designed for other purposes.

Because new generations of FPGAs available from commercial suppliers may not have been fully tested for reliable performance in space, Sandia engineers help validate device performance in a spacelike environment before the devices are integrated into high-consequence operational systems.

Sandia, in a partnership with Xilinx,Inc., designed the SEU Xilinx-Sandia Experiment (SEUXSE) for this opportunity to fly on MISSE 7. SEUs, or single event upsets, refer to electronic changes caused by collisions with a single particle. The U.S. headquarters of Xilinx is in San Jose, Calif.

SEUXSE contains space-qualified Virtex 4 FPGA and a nonspace qualified Virtex 5 FPGA from Xilinx. Converting the ISS power to levels compatible with the Virtex devices are Sandia designed power converters known as point-of-load (POL) converters.

The POL design for SEUXSE is the first time these efficient, high-quality power converters have been used in space.

Special algorithms were developed and programmed into both of these Virtex FPGAs to detect and report particle-induced errors while the FPGAs were running typical satellite data processing tasks.

With the data collected from this platform, researchers in future Sandia programs will know exactly how these FPGAs and POL converters perform in the space environment and how to design mitigation approaches into these processing routines to account for upsets encountered in space.

A second experiment called SEUXSE II, featuring even more recent computing components, has already been prepared to lift off on a future shuttle flight as part of MISSE 8.

For SEUXSE II, Sandia researchers replaced the nonspace-qualified version of the Virtex 5 from Xilinx with an early release version of the space-qualified Virtex 5.

“Fortunately,” said Sandia SEUXSE researcher Jeff Kalb, “the new Virtex 5 from Xilinx had a compatible footprint to the previous Virtex 5 and we could leverage the hardware that was designed for MISSE 7.”

MISSE 8 is expected to launch on the space shuttle in July 2010.

When it is deployed on the ISS, it will replace the MISSE 7 Passive Experiment Containers, which will be returned to earth on the shuttle, allowing Sandia researchers to analyze SEUXSE hardware after being in orbit.

Sandia is the first to put these versions of the Virtex technology into orbit. These FPGAs and POL converters are expected to become the heart of future processing architectures for the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversee Sandia.

MISSE-7 also is flying the Sandia Passive ISS Research Experiments (SPIRE). These tests passively expose a variety of materials and devices to the harsh space environment. Upon return to ground, they will be tested to determine if degradation has occurred due to synergistic factors such as ionizing radiation, UV exposure, thermal cycling, micrometeorite impacts and vacuum effects.

Radiation-shielding structural composites, doped laser fibers, pure tin finished parts, microelectromechanical systems (MEMs) latching impact sensors, and gallium-arsenide photodiodes are some of the 15 Sandia passive experiments that make up SPIRE.

Sandia, through the support of the NNSA’s Space Nuclear Detonation Detection (SNDD) Program office, developed SEUXSE and SPIRE in an 18-month period for a cost that was one-fifth that of other comparable experiments. SEUXSE II was then delivered in one-third the time and cost of the original SEUXSE.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

| Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>