NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:In-Space Computing and Reconfigurable Electronics
PROPOSAL TITLE:Modular, Fault-Tolerant Electronics Supporting Space Exploration

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
AeroAstro Corp.
20145 Ashbrook Place
Ashburn, VA 20147-3373
(617) 451-8630

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Frank   LaRosa
12672 112th St. N.
Largo, FL  20147-3373
(727) 581-3773

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Modern electronic systems tolerate only as many point failures as there are redundant system copies, using mere macro-scale redundancy. Fault Tolerant Electronics Supporting Space Exploration (FTESSE) creates an electronic design paradigm using reprogrammable FPGAs to create swappable Circuit Object Blocks (COBs) ? analogous to software objects ? for the first time enabling redundancy on a micro-scale. The result is an increased tolerance of point failures by several orders of magnitude over traditional approaches. In the FTESSE approach, FPGAs are partitioned into COBs (groups of gates), each performing a specific function. Bad areas can be mapped like the bad sector data on a disk drive, enabling COBs to be placed in areas of working gates to recover system performance. Hardware tested during Phase I verified point failures could be introduced into an example circuit and corrected. As in the Phase I model, circuits to be monitored reside on a Slave FPGA, and a Master FPGA monitors outputs of all COBs, sensing faults and mapping non-working gates on the Slave FPGA. The Master is a rad-hard, triple mode redundancy (TMR) FPGA, but the Slaves need not be, opening the doors to higher performance applications while maintaining high levels of fault tolerance.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Reconfigurability will benefit all missions by providing orders of magnitude more tolerance of point failures in electronic systems, including graceful degradation of electronic systems upon further unexpected damage (e.g., that incurred at launch, those from micrometeorite impacts or high-radiation environments, etc). Examples of electronic systems benefiting from this design approach are radios, flight computers, and other systems demanding the highest reliability. The requirements of moon-base missions and interplanetary travel ? beginning with the Mars exploration missions ? are daunting. Not only are these much longer in duration, thus increasing the likelihood of failure because of operational time alone, there will also be powerful contention over the allocation of resources and inevitable compromises that reduce the availability of spare parts. A self-diagnosing, self-repairing system will go far in insuring the success of these bold ventures.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Current Military systems use various devices to destroy or damage sensitive or valuable equipment if capture is imminent. Another approach would be to use stealth via reconfigurability, effectively cloaking the hardware by reconfiguring it to perform an entirely different function than its military application. Imagine a military radio that, if captured, would simply generate random tones! Other systems benefiting include today's aircraft, which depend on high-reliability fly-by-wire systems. Critical infrastructure systems such as power plants, electrical transmission and distribution systems, financial networks and homeland security-related systems depend on 100% availability of electronic systems. Life support electronics systems are vital in our hospitals' operating rooms. Inaccessible systems, difficult to reach to perform service, may have financial motives to adopt a reliable system; and in case of failures, they can report so that repairs to a diminished but still functional system can be scheduled for repair at the most convenient time.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Attitude Determination and Control
Guidance, Navigation, and Control
On-Board Computing and Data Management
Radiation-Hard/Resistant Electronics

Form Printed on 07-25-06 17:04