Electronic Design

Actel FPGAs In Mars Rover

The Phoenix Mars rover uses a Meteorological Station (MET) created by robotic space systems provider MDA that incorporates Actel radiation-tolerant RTAX-S FPGAs in its design. Actel's one-million gate RTAX1000S-CQ352 device was used in the MET, which will acquire, process and transmit temperature and pressure data back to researchers on Earth. "We determined that the RTAX1000S-CQ352 provided the high reliability and stringent low-power metrics required for this mission-essential function," Andrew Kerr, program manager for the MET program, said in a statement. "Using the high-density RTAX-S Actel device, MDA's MET instrument temperature and pressure subsystem is designed to provide accurate data throughout the mission, without failures." Once the Phoenix arrives on Mars, the MET instruments will be used constantly in surface operations, which are expected to last 150 days. The MET instruments operate on a combination of battery power and solar energy. Because sunlight in the Martian polar region is even weaker than at its equator, all systems and their components must feature extremely efficient power management. "Actel's antifuse-based technology combines radiation tolerance with the industry's lowest power, enabling it to withstand the rigorous environments of space flight and exploration," Rich Brossart, vice president of product marketing at Actel, said in a statement.

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