Saturday, December 06, 2014
The Orion spacecraft built for 2030s is no smarter than your phone
Orion's computer can process 480 million instructions per second. It's also 25 times faster than the computers at the International Space Station, according to NASA.
The computers are running eIBM's PowerPC 750FX single-core processors, which were first launched in 2002.As for Orion's main computer, the space agency is using a Honeywell International Inc. flight computer originally built for Boeing's 787 jet airliner. The computer, which at this point runs everything on the uncrewed spacecraft, has been ruggedized for space travel with larger housing, a thicker circuit board and hardware to minimize vibrations.
The processor has 10.4 million transistors, is manufactured by BAE Systems using either 250 or 150 nm process and has a die area of 130 mm². It operates at 110 to 200 MHz. The CPU itself can withstand 200,000 to 1,000,000 Rads and temperature ranges between −55 and 125 °C. The RAD750 packaging and logic functions has a price tag in excess of $200,000: the high price is mainly due to radiation hardening revisions to the PowerPC 750 architecture and manufacturing, stringent quality control requirements, and extended testing of each processor chip manufactured.
"The Time-Triggered Ethernet gives you a time-based guaranteed delivery," said Lemke. "It lets us use Ethernet for controlling the entire spacecraft -- every command the computer sends, all the data from the sensors that goes to the flight computers."
Orion has one basic Ethernet cable for basic communications, but all critical data will travel across three different Ethernet lines.
"Orion is not incredibly high tech, but compared to what else is flying in space, it's leading edge," said Lemke. "It's much more capable than the space station or more capable than what the shuttles were. It's state-of-the-art compared to that ,but it's not state-of-the-art compared to what you can get at Best Buy.
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