CAES works with Lattice on low-power FPGAs for satellites

Defense and civilian satellite maker CAES is collaborating with Lattice Semiconductor to retrofit two of its FPGAs for space applications.

The result is radiation-tolerant FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) that consume up to four times less power and can cost one-tenth as FPGAs currently used in satellites which can run upwards of $100,000 apiece, CAES said.

CAES will compete against FPGA providers such as Xilinx, NanoXplore and Microsemi.

The cost savings come partly in how the new FPGAs will be configured as edge devices in satellite design, cutting down on the network of electronics cables and connections needed in a typical satellite system design, said David Mayouhas, senior director for standard products at CAES.

CAES will sell Lattice Certus NX-RT and CertusPro NX-RT FPGAs that CAES will qualify for radiation assurance needed in hostile space conditions.

The collaboration will provide what CAES sees as a commercial-off-the-shelf device design instead of more expensive proprietary technology. CAES will provide software programming and design support. Sampling of the FPGAs is set for second quarter.

The Certus-NX-RT is a 14 mm FPGA requiring 100 mW of power and the Certus-NX-RT is a 29 mm FGPA requiring 600 mW of power, far below the size and power requirements of competing FPGAs.

“The low power and small footprint enables a lot of capability not available today,” Mayouhas said in an interview.  Today’s product offerings are either too small or too large for what’s typically needed and “don’t thread all the needles” that systems architects need.

The space systems division provides about one-third of annual CAES revenues that were nearly $4 billion in fiscal 2020.  Half of the division’s revenues come from government accounts and half from commercial customers.

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