Radstone to supply computers for X-38 space vehicle

HOUSTON -- Officials at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston are using VMEbus and PowerPC technology from Radstone Technology in Towcester, England, for the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle for the International Space Station.

Apr 1st, 2000
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By John McHale

HOUSTON -- Officials at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston are using VMEbus and PowerPC technology from Radstone Technology in Towcester, England, for the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle for the International Space Station.

Radstone hardware will go into the flight-critical computers and into the command and telemetry computers, which serve as the vehicle's primary man/machine interface that sends telemetry data to several destinations, including ground control and the orbiter flight deck.

A Radstone controller board, called the MPCC-1, provides four serial channels that operate simultaneously, each of which can support a data rate as fast as 500 kilobits per second. The MPCC-1 has an embedded processing subsystem to relieve the VMEbus host processor of all the low-level tasks of operating the serial lines.

The Radstone PPC2A 6U VME single-board computers come in air-cooled and conduction-cooled form factors. The devices also operate at 740 MHz and come with nine megabytes of flash memory.

The return vehicle uses four flight computers. In each one are two Radstone PowerPC 2A 604e processors -- one that handles flight control, and the other that performs I/O processing, says David Ashton, marketing communications manager at Radstone. A Radstone MPCC -- short for multi protocol, command controller -- also works on flight I/O processing, he adds.


NASA's X-38 Crew Return Vehicle's flight computers use VME PowerPC boards from Radstone Technology.
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NASA officials are able to develop the vehicle at a fraction of the cost of previous space vehicles by using COTS equipment and technology for about 80 percent of the spacecraft's design, Radstone officials say.

The return vehicle provides crewmembers with the means to evacuate the space station quickly and return to earth in the event of an emergency. NASA's Crew Return Vehicle will be the first new, manned spacecraft, built to travel to and from orbit, for 20 years.

NASA officials plan to build four operational vehicles for less than half the cost of one space shuttle orbiter, Radstone officials say.

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