Honeywell and Atmel team to develop radiation-hardened FPGAs

PLYMOUTH, Minn. - Engineers at the Honeywell Solid State Electronic Center in Plymouth, Minn., and Atmel Corp. in San Jose, Calif., are joining hands to develop a radiation-hardened version of Atmel`s 30,000-gate, 6,400-register field programmable gate array (FPGA), the AT6010.

Oct 1st, 1998

By John McHale

PLYMOUTH, Minn. - Engineers at the Honeywell Solid State Electronic Center in Plymouth, Minn., and Atmel Corp. in San Jose, Calif., are joining hands to develop a radiation-hardened version of Atmel`s 30,000-gate, 6,400-register field programmable gate array (FPGA), the AT6010.

Honeywell experts will develop a CMOS silicon on insulator (SOI) version of the AT6010 FPGA to meet the radiation hardness levels required for commercial and military space and missile systems. The radiation-hardened reconfigurable FPGA will be compatible with Atmel`s commercial FPGA, enabling users to interchange the commercial and radiation-hardened FPGA products. NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is paying for development of the new FPGA.

"The [radiation-hardened] FPGA device will pave the way for the development of rad-hard reconfigurable array-based information systems for space flight applications in the areas of display, analysis, archiving, and distribution of space and Earth science data," says Jack McCabe, program manager at NASA Goddard.

The new FPGA`s resistance to total-dose radiation will be between 300 and 500 kilorads, says Greg Panning, program manager at the Honeywell Solid State Electronic Center. Honeywell officials claim it was too early in the development stage to comment on the device`s resistance to single-event upsets, Panning adds.

Honeywell experts prefer SOI technology due to its low power consumption and speed. SOI-based products offer 40 percent greater speed and use 30 percent less power than products using conventional bulk CMOS, Honeywell officials claim.

Atmel`s AT6000 Series FPGAs are designed to speed up processor-based system performance while lowering power, part count, and cost. The FPGAs` 1,024 to 6,400 registers make them useful for re-configurable digital signal processing co-processors. They can increase system speeds by off-loading "bottleneck" DSP software functions into hardware, Atmel officials claim.

"The AT6010`s unique ability to be dynamically partially reconfigured in- system, combined with its register-rich architecture make it ideal for DSP and other compute intensive applications," says Joel Rosenberg, Atmel`s FPGA marketing director. "The fact that the device supports on-board error checking and will be radiation-hardened should eliminate any concern for using SRAM-based FPGAs in space. Reconfigurable FPGAs offer a significant advantage over one-time programmable antifuse FPGAs in that the hardware can be changed even after the system has been deployed for many years."

Where antifuse FPGAs cannot be changed once they are programmed, SRAM devices are based on memory cells enabling the FPGA to be reconfigured, explains Gary Gardner, program manager at Honeywell Space Systems in Clearwater, Fla.

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