Spectrum Signal and Northrop Grumman develop DSP for new radar

Engineers at Spectrum Signal Processing Inc. and Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector in Baltimore have joined hands to develop a new multiprocessor digital signal processor (DSP) system for next-generation radar programs.

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By John McHale

BURNABY, British Columbia — Engineers at Spectrum Signal Processing Inc. and Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector in Baltimore have joined hands to develop a new multiprocessor digital signal processor (DSP) system for next-generation radar programs.


The TPS-70 tactical radar, pictured above, from the Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector will use digital signal processing technology from Spectrum Signal Processing.
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Northrop officials will use the new platform in their TPS-70 radar, a ground-based tactical air surveillance system that can track aircraft and missiles at the same time.

"The TPS-70 radar project requires a high-performance DSP system that fits in a confined space and uses very little power," says Victor Grams Jr., programs engineering director at Northrop. "Our system requires hundreds of processors to communicate within and between each other and simultaneously execute multitudes of tasks.

"Spectrum's APEX software resembles 'night vision' for multiprocessing systems, by providing a graphical picture of the entire system, which helps us to decrease our development time," Grams explains. "We expect the TPS-70 radar system to be deployed worldwide, providing our global customers with unparalleled performance, reliability, and value."

The TPS-70 contract represents the first of several contracts that may evolve from Spectrum's relationship with Northrop Grumman, says Pascal Spothelfer, president and chief executive officer at Spectrum. "Our strategy allows us to focus our sales effort and improves our ability to develop commercial and technological partnerships in all three of our business units. These relationships provide us with early access to our customer's design cycle and visibility into future program opportunities, which will ultimately enhance our long-term revenue."

Spectrum officials expect to deliver their Modena DSP systems — an Analog Devices SHARC 21160-based VME platform — to Northrop Grumman's TPS-70 project with their initial order. The order is expected to ship early in the second half of this year. Spectrum officials also anticipate that by 2002 this project will provide a strong on-going revenue stream for five to eight years.

The main requirement for the TPS-70 was high density, which translates to 12 SHARCs per slot, says Graeme Harfman, business development manager at Spectrum Signal Processing. Spectrum engineers also worked on adding connections such as PMC and PCI that "provide a total commercial-off-the-shelf solution," Harfman adds.

Northrop Grumman engineers want to make the TPS-70 more portable, which required reduced size, weight, and power consumption, Harfman says. SHARC devices from Analog Devices in Norwood, Mass., are ideal for this type of application, he adds.

They are superior in megaflops per watt and square inch, interprocessor communications bandwidth, and in performance per watt to systems like the AltiVec PowerPC 7400 from Motorola's Semiconductor Product Sector in Austin, Texas, Harfman claims.

Spectrum officials negotiated a corporate pricing agreement as part of the licensing agreement with Northrop Grumman. This pricing agreement not only secures this contract but also paves the way for future contracts with other divisions within Northrop Grumman.

For more information on Modena DSP systems contact Spectrum by Mabel Louie by phone at 604-421-5422, by fax at 604-421-1764, by mail at One Spectrum Court, #200 - 2700 Production Way, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, V5A 4X1, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.spectrumsignal.com.

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