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Electronics News Digest
28 January 2004, News, Electronic News Digest

Xilinx has announced that its radiation-tolerant field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are playing a critical role in the successful NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Mars exploration mission. Xilinx radiation-tolerant Virtex FPGAs are being used in the 'main brain' of the Rover vehicle, controlling the motors for the wheels, steering, arms, cameras and various instrumentation, enabling the vehicle to travel about the planet.

Xilinx radiation-tolerant XQVR4000XL devices were used to control the crucial pyrotechnic operations during the multiphase descent and landing procedure for the Spirit Rover and play a similar role in the later Opportunity MER Rover.

Designers at JPL said that they chose Xilinx chips for this mission based on the radiation tolerance, high gate density, on-board RAM, and large I/O count offered by the Virtex family. On board reprogrammability of the FPGAs allowed for design changes and updates right up to launch time, allowing the design team to meet demanding schedules.

According to JPL, this same 'on the fly' reprogrammable feature, inherent to Xilinx FPGAs, will be used for post-launch reprogramming in its next generation deep space UHF radio. This radio will be a part of the '05 Mars orbiter, and probably other missions as well.

Xilinx currently supplies Virtex radiation tolerant products up to one million system gates and total ionising dose guaranteed to 100 kRads(si). Soon to be announced is a family of Virtex-II products up to six million system gates and total ionising dose guaranteed to 200 kRads(si).

For more information contact Avnet Kopp, 011 809 6100 or Memec SA, 011 897 8600.


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