Aitech brings COTS to space

By John McHale

CHATSWORTH, Calif. - Leaders at Aitech Defense Systems Inc. in Chatsworth, Calif., are bringing the economic strategy that changed military procurement to the space market.

The commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Defense more than a decade ago, brought new economies of scale to the defense market. Defense programs were directed to buy commercial technology wherever and whenever possible-ensuring the latest technology at the best cost.

Yet certain harsh environments precluded the use of commercial parts without significant testing and qualification. The last frontier for COTS is space, says Doug Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing for AiTech.

Traditionally the space market has had a “grow your own” approach, which can be very costly because customers are buying parts in very low volumes, Patterson says. Companies such as BAE Systems and Honeywell charge exorbitant amounts because they have to pay so much for the product and for testing. Aitech faces the same testing cost, but because “we buy parts in bulk that amortizes the cost and we pass that savings on to our customer,” he explains.

Aitech’s radiation-tolerant, space-qualified single-slot, 3U Compact (cPCI) single-board computer (SBC) is an example. The board provides an increase in performance of as much as five times and a cost reduction of as much as two times when compared to the point-driven, purposed-based designs currently in use, Patterson says.


The cost-saving S950 3U board from Aitech is flying aboard the International Space Station.
Click here to enlarge image

Aitech engineers perform the space-qualification testing at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., a NASA-certified facility, Patterson says. The motto is “test what you fly and fly what you test,” he adds.

Testing prices have also increased due to the impending restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) legislation. The legislation prohibits the sale of new electronic equipment containing certain hazardous substances; manufacturers are to substitute heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium) and brominated flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls or polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in all electrical and electronic equipment brought to market after July 1, 2006.

Patterson says his team tests for tin content to ensure that there is never more than 97 percent tin in any product, because at more than 97 percent whiskering can occur. The same economy of scale applies to tin testing as to radiation testing-“because we test large volumes of products and make them available off-the-shelf, our customer gets a price break,” he explains

Tin whiskers are electroconductive filaments that resemble microscopic hairs and grow out of pure tin via a crystalline metallurgical phenomenon. The cause of tin whiskers is not completely understood, but stresses-like thermal cycling-encourage their growth.

No one knows what causes it, and even if they did, it would still occur, so it has to be tested for because it causes parts to fail in space, he adds.

While Aitech’s approach is business related, it also helps that many parts that Aitech uses, such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), are inherently rad-hard, Patterson says. Many parts claim to be space-ready but flunk testing, he adds.

Aitech’s rad-tolerant, conduction-cooled S950 is designed for manned and robotic space vehicles in harsh space radiation environments found in low-Earth orbit (LEO), high-Earth orbit (HEO), and deep-space applications. These include redundant mission computers, flight guidance and navigation computers, as well as command and data-handling computers. It is currently in use on the International Space Station, Patterson notes.

The board combines a high-performance, low-power PowerPC 750FX processor with a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) processor for reduced power consumption-typically less than 12 watts-as well as for increased processor speed and radiation tolerance. Its custom metal frame provides rigidity and shock resistance, as well as an array of stiffeners to support rugged PCI mezzanine cards (PMCs).

The S950 is rad-tolerant with a minimum board-level total ionization dose (TID) of 20 kilorad (Si). Flight units with higher TID tolerance are available upon request. In addition, the board is latch-up immune with a high linear energy transfer (LET) of 37 MeV*cm2/mg and features a low single-event-upset (SEU) rate of less than one upset per 25 years in operation at International Space Station (ISS) orbit.

The S950 features a 33 MHz, 32-bit internal PCI bus that supports single and burst transfers, and provides the interconnection to peripheral I/O, enabling fast access between the PCI devices and the host processor. The board’s external 33 MHz, 32-bit cPCI bus interface is implemented on a rad-tolerant FPGA for local processor access to cPCI resources. The board can be configured as a single-slot system controller, supporting as much as seven additional cPCI boards, or as a standard cPCI board in any other cPCI bus slot.

For more information on Aitech visit www.rugged.com.


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Flexible Printed Circuit Board

Flexible Printed Circuit Boards are one of the most popular types of circuit boards used in a var...

Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCB ASSY) is as critical a process as circuit board manufacturing.

CANoe.A429

CANoe.A429 is ideal for the test and analysis of ARINC 429 buses and of individual devices on up ...

VN0601 - Interface for ARINC 429 Bus Systems

The VN0601 is a compact and powerful interface for ARINC 429 bus systems. The interface convenien...

XPand6020 | Small Form Factor (SFF) System Featuring XPedite5205 Running Cisco IOS® and XPedite7450

The XPand6020 is a Small Form Factor (SFF) system that features an XPedite5205, which runs Cisco ...

XPand5200 Series | Sub-½ ATR, Natural Convection- or Conduction-Cooled Chassis for Four Conduction-Cooled Modules

The XPand5200 Series redefines the limits of power, performance, and functionality in a sub-½ ATR...

XCalibur4500 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 6U CompactPCI Module

The XCalibur4500 is a high-performance 6U CompactPCI single board computer that is ideal for rugg...

XPedite7472 | Intel® Core™ i7 Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI SBC with SecureCOTS™

The XPedite7472 is a secure and high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the...

XPort5005 | XMC Form Factor PCIe Mini Card Carrier Board

The XPort5005 is an XMC module that can be quickly configured to support a platform’s specific I/...

XPand6000 Series | Rugged Small Form Factor Intel® Core™ i7 or Freescale QorIQ-Based System with PMC or XMC Support

XPand6000 Series systems are based on convection-cooled and conduction-cooled, fully-ruggedized S...

Related Companies

A-FLEX

Provides customized Printed Circuit Board fabrication in California. The entire process can be customized according t...

TASC Technical & Assembly Services Corporation Electronic Equipment Manufacturing

Electronic Manufacturing sub-contractor. Circuit Board assembly, Cable Assembly, Wire Harness Assembly, Box Build Ass...

Vector Informatik GmbH

Provides solutions to benefit developers and test engineers for aerospace electronic networking. Focuses on tools for...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

DDC-I Inc

Offers complete solutions for embedded software developers with a focus on mission- and safety-critical applications....

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

STMicroelectronics Inc

ST serves customers across the spectrum of sense, power, automotive products, and embedded processing solutions. From...

MERITEC

Signal integrity leaders and preferred vertically integrated manufacturer of high-performance electrical and electron...

Stealth.com

Manufactures industrial rugged computers and peripherals, including custom rack servers, rugged LCD monitors, mini PC...

AcQ Inducom

Develops and produces non-certified and certified high-tech modular hardware- and software solutions for on-board and...
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Model INCX-4001

The INCX-4001 consists of a high quality audio transceiver specifically designed to implement a complete fiber optic intercom.

Model PS-1210

The PS-1210 is a 1A, 12VDC stand-alone or rack mountable non-switcher (no RF noise) power supply.

Model OS-3121

Optical switches are utilized to disconnect, bypass and reroute fiber optic communications. All of these optical switches are purely optical path, there is no optical to e...

Webcasts

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE