CPU Tech to design next-generation space processor

PLEASANTON, Calif. - Officials at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., are asking engineers at CPU Tech to develop a way to design commercial processors for space applications.

Apr 1st, 2000

By John McHale

PLEASANTON, Calif. - Officials at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., are asking engineers at CPU Tech to develop a way to design commercial processors for space applications.

During the next 12 months CPU Tech experts in Pleasanton, Calif., will develop RadFire, a high-assurance, radiation-hardened equivalent of Motorola's ColdFire processor. The small business innovative research contract from the Air Force is in phase 2, says Richard comfort, vice president of marketing at CPU Tech.

CPU Tech engineers are trying to make radiation-hardened processors compatible with commercial-grade processors. That way, space system developers could save time and money, CPU Tech officials maintain. They could use commercially available standard software tools such as programming language compilers and runtime operating systems rather than custom software, they add.

One of the major problems with commercial processors, however, is that they quickly become obsolete, and therefore unavailable, as new technology is developed, CPU Tech officials say

CPU Tech's RadFire will be a high-assurance processor - optimized for use in radiation environments - which will be the functional equivalent of the ColdFire. It will be binary compatible with the ColdFire chip, Comfort says.

CPU Tech engineers will capture the behavior of the ColdFire chip and implement it in a new design for radiation environments, he explains.

CPU Tech engineers plan to apply their validation-modernization process to RadFire, which will enable virtually any foundry to manufacture the processor - even in the future when the manufacturing processes may have changed, Comfort says. This means that the design netlist can move between foundries without any design changes, he adds.

The intellectual property of the design will be preserved far into the future, Comfort adds.

The validation modernization process enables designers to insert the latest electronic technology into an existing system to increase reliability, safety, and performance with no ill effects on existing software, Comfort explains.

The method makes it possible for them to provide high assurance that a processor or a circuit board or an entire system is precisely compatible with another processor, board or system, CPU Tech officials claim.

Total kilorad and single event upset resistance for the RadFire has not yet been determined, Comfort says. The contract is only in phase two and it is too early in the design process to list certain specifications, he adds.

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