Rad Chips

By Mike Deliman

In a recent EEtimes Article (requires login) NASA has begun looking for a suitable processor for continued manned space exploration.  Current space robots (MRO, etc) run BAEsystem’s Rad750, based on PowerPC 750, and descended from AFRL’s Rad6000
design.  The Rad6000 was the first 32-bit computer hardened for space
use.  In the world of computers, these aren’t huge horse-power
producing machines.  In fact, in today’s world, they’re both kind-of
throwbacks to earlier times.  If these are old designs, why are they
still in use?

And.. what’s the big deal?  Why is there a "search" for appropriate
computing power?  Can’t we just grab one of today’s chips, put it
through whatever process it is, and launch it into space?  And why are
these space processors so … well, underwhelming?  The Rad750 is based
on PPC750 – which has been around for a long time, and at 133Mhz / 260
MIPS, this one looks like it’s been around a long time too!

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