Mentor Graphics works with NASA to design, develop Precision Rad-Tolerant for advanced radiation effects mitigation

WILSONVILLE, Ore., 10 Jan. 2011. Mentor Graphics Corp. developed its Precision Rad-Tolerant FPGA design software for aerospace and high-reliability applications with guidance from NASA officials. The company's synthesis-based radiation effects mitigation solution is designed to reduce the risk of functionality problems including soft errors caused by single event upset (SEU) and single event transient (SET) disruptions. Initial support is available for SRAM, anti-fuse, and flash-based devices from Actel and Xilinx.

Jan 10th, 2011

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

WILSONVILLE, Ore., 10 Jan. 2011. Mentor Graphics Corp. developed its Precision Rad-Tolerant FPGA design software for aerospace and high-reliability applications with guidance from NASA officials. The company's synthesis-based radiation effects mitigation solution is designed to reduce the risk of functionality problems including soft errors caused by single event upset (SEU) and single event transient (SET) disruptions. Initial support is available for SRAM, anti-fuse, and flash-based devices from Actel and Xilinx.

With Precision Rad-Tolerant, Mentor is addressing the critical need for automated, FPGA vendor-independent methods of radiation effects mitigation, says a company representative. Alternative mitigation methods, such as manual HDL coding, can be too costly, time consuming, or error-prone. The Precision Rad-Tolerant solution also delivers the synthesis-based capabilities of Precision RTL Plus, including low power synthesis, integration with Mentor tools, and specialized features and flows for mil-aero and safety-critical applications.

The Precision Rad-Tolerant product has several features that make it easier for designers to incorporate a variety of radiation effects mitigation schemes, such as automated, multi-vendor, multi-mode Triple Modular Redundancy (TMR). The tool builds on proven mitigation methods, such as redundancy of sequential and combinational logic. Because TMR insertion is performed at the synthesis level, designers are no longer limited to using radiation-tolerant devices and can achieve higher-quality results versus alternative mitigation approaches, adds the spokesperson.

By addressing radiation effects during implementation, the features of the Precision Rad-Tolerant solution provide a high level of automation and user control. “Although the concept of TMR is simple, writing a reliable VHDL equivalent is not,” says Melanie Berg, MEI Technologies, NASA/GSFC Radiation Effects and Analysis Group. “Automating TMR logic insertion, while allowing the user to select the type of TMR mitigation, is very beneficial to a FPGA designer developing critical space applications.”

A unique feature of the Precision Rad-Tolerant product is synthesis-based insertion of fault-tolerant finite state machines (FSM). The resulting FSM can “absorb” radiation-induced single event upsets (SEUs), mitigating their effect rather than switching the state machine into an unknown or unpredictable state. This form of safeguard meets the needs of a wide range of high-reliability applications.

“Mentor Graphics is enhancing the FPGA design flow for high reliability,” says Ken O’Neill, director of high reliability marketing for Actel. “With support for our RT ProASIC3 FPGAs, Precision Rad-Tolerant allows designers of space-flight systems to take advantage of the reprogrammability and low power consumption of flash-based FPGAs. Additionally, designers of high-reliability systems which must withstand radiation environments, such as oncology systems and airborne avionics systems, can use Precision Rad-Tolerant to protect critical data paths in ProASIC3, IGLOO, and Fusion families.

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