FPGA processors keep Mars Rovers moving

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 11 January 2005. Actel Corp. today announced that its radiation-tolerant and radiation-hardened field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) continue to perform critical functions in the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which have both surpassed the one-year mark of exploring the surface of Mars.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 11 January 2005. Actel Corp. today announced that its radiation-tolerant and radiation-hardened field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) continue to perform critical functions in the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which have both surpassed the one-year mark of exploring the surface of Mars.

Among the highlights from the first year, the rovers have provided spectacular images of
the Martian surface, enabling unprecedented study of the planet.

Actel FPGAs play instrumental roles in the camera electronics on each rover, among other functions. The Actel devices were selected because of their proven track record of reliability and durability. In fact, NASA has commented that even the rovers' designers are astounded by how well Spirit and Opportunity have continued to operate, with the longevity of the rovers making it possible to reach additional destinations and make new discoveries.

"The successful completion of the first anniversary of the Mars Rover Mission, with its extreme and critical conditions, is a testament to the performance and reliability of our FPGA technology," explained Ken O'Neill, director of military and aerospace product marketing at Actel. "The achievements of the rovers reinforce Actel's position as a key player in enabling significant breakthroughs in space exploration and further underscore the broad range of applications in which programmability and Actel FPGAs can be used."

A total of 28 Actel FPGAs have been used in the Mars Rover Mission. Some devices implement critical functions on the Rover Electronics Module and the Lander Electronics Module that are currently deployed on the surface of the planet, as well as on the Cruise Module that was part of the propulsion system to the planet. Others implement the camera electronics on the rovers. The space-optimized FPGAs deliver the inherent benefits of Actel's nonvolatile products -- proven reliability at extreme temperatures and live at power-up functionality all on a single chip, which reduces component count, thereby minimizing power consumption and saving board space and weight.

Actel FPGAs are designed to have a high tolerance to the radiation and temperatures that the rovers have been exposed to in space and on the Martian surface. So far, the two rovers have made it through the worst of the Martian winter.

Over the last decade, Actel FPGAs have been onboard more than 100 launches and flown on over 300 satellites, including Atlas II, Echostar, SBIRS-High, International Space Station, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Explorer Rovers 1 and 2, Mars Express Orbiter, Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Actel Corp. is a supplier of innovative programmable logic solutions, including field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) based on antifuse and flash technologies, high-performance intellectual property (IP) cores, software development tools and design services, targeted for the high-speed communications, application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) replacement and radiation-tolerant markets. Founded in 1985, Actel employs more than 500 people worldwide. For more information, see www.actel.com.

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