What’s New in Space? Components Designed to Weather Aerospace and Defense

January 05, 2020 by Hannah DeTavis

This article highlights a few recent products that aim to meet the engineering pain points for harsh environments, including processing, power usage, size, and weight.

Many components for consumer electronics "live fast and die young," focusing on high-energy functions while also accounting for continual turnover of new designs. But when it comes to devices for aerospace and defense, the focus shifts to longevity. 

To this end, several recent products on the market aim to meet the engineering pain points for harsh environments, including processing, power usage, size, and weight. This article touches on a few recent devices built to operate in the extreme conditions of space and combat zones alike.


VORAGO Technologies’ Rad-hard MCUs

To withstand the extreme temperatures and radiation of space, VORAGO Technologies recently released two radiation-hardened, integrated 32-bit Arm Cortex-M4 microcontrollers: VA41620 and VA41630.



VA41630. Image used courtesy of VORAGO Technologies

Both MCUs include a Floating Point Unit to 100MHz. Because of the devices' speed and size, VORAGO sees them being useful for manned and unmanned spacecraft control. 

These MCUs are based on VORAGO’s HARDSIL radiation-hardening technology, which “immunizes” semiconductors from harsh environments without special design techniques.

As far as memory, both devices include a Direct Memory Access (DMA) controller. Although the VA41620 requires external non-volatile memory (NVM), the VA41630 includes 256KB of NVM on-chip, SRAM EDAC, and memory scrubbing.


Diagram of VA41620

Diagram of VA41620. Image (modified) used courtesy of VORAGO Technologies

The MCUs are also said to address another key concern in aerospace design: communication. Some notable peripherals include I2C, UART, and SPI interfaces; CAN 20B; and Ethernet 10/100 MAC. The devices also integrate an 8-ch analog-to-digital converter and a 2-ch digital-to-analog converter.

Abaco Systems’ 6U VPX Direct RF Processing System

The VP460 is an RF processing system from Abaco Systems composed of a unique hybrid of devices. The anatomy of the system includes one of Xilinx’s Zynq Ultrascale+ RF system-on-chip (RFSoC) devices along with Xilinx’s Virtex Ultrascale+ high-bandwidth memory (HBM) FPGA device. 



VP460. Image used courtesy of Abaco Systems

The (PDF) RFSoC ZU29DR, built into VP460, includes:

  • 16 integrated analog-to-digital converters at 2 GSPS
  • 16 digital-to-analog converters at 6.4 GSPS
  • a user-programmable FPGA fabric
  • multi-core Zynq Arm processing subsystem

Another notable component of the VP460 system is (PDF) HBM VU37P. This device is said to grant up to 460GB/s data transfer rates on-chip.

Abaco Systems has made clear that this processor is built for ruggedization. The system meets SOSA requirements for the US Air Force, Army, and Navy (for example, for communication systems, sensor processing, radar, and electronic warfare). 

Abaco also claims that this system can handle MIMO and beamforming while reducing board count and minimizing SWaP.

DDC’s Data Combiner for Synchro/Resolver

The Data Device Corporation (DDC) recently released the SD-15901, a revamped version of its popular two-speed data combiner for synchro/resolver. Packaged in a 23mm x 23mm FBGA (Fine Pitch Ball Grid Array) package, the SD-15901 operates within the military temperature range of -55°C to +125°C. 

The device’s ball grid array surface mounting is designed to simplify assembly and PCB layout while optimizing SWaP.



SD-15901. Image used courtesy of DDC

The combiner offers 22-bit angle resolution by using coarse and fine digital angle inputs; DDC claims that this makes it a useful option for position control systems that necessitate real-time precision resolution. The SD-15901 can also be used with all 3.3V synchro/resolver converters and processors without any logic shifters. 

DDC expects that the combiner will find a home in industrial and military position control systems, radar antenna positioning, fire control systems, precision aviation systems, and commercial aerospace.

Crossing Lines

In the past, manufacturers sometimes marketed their technology as specifically for aerospace applications or specifically for military applications. But as with these highlighted components, it seems that suppliers are increasingly emphasizing that their devices are more broadly suited for harsh environments in general. 


Brush Up on More Aerospace and Defense Technology

GaN Heads to Space! VPT Introduces Radiation-Hardened DC-DC Converters Featuring GaN Technology

How Do Avionics Systems Communicate? New ARINC-429 Bus Board Announced by UEI

SiTime Introduces Rugged Endura MEMS Oscillators for Military and Aerospace Applications

DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge Tasks Engineers with Communication and Sensor Issues

Highland Technology’s Quadrature Modulator Geared for Aerospace Simulation



What parameters stand out to you when you’re designing for longevity and durability? Share your thoughts in the comments below.