Ken O'Neill, Microsemi
Constellations of small satellites (smallsats) promise to bring tangible benefits to national security space (NSS) programs, where there is a critical need to minimize construction and deployment costs. Multiple smallsats, defined as satellites with launch mass of 500 Kg or less, can be built quickly and cheaply and then deployed rapidly and responsively to implement a network of NSS assets that address today's ever-changing threat landscape.
Dramatic increases in sensor resolution in remote-sensing space payloads are causing a processing bottleneck, as downlink bandwidth is not keeping pace. Operators require onboard processing so that satellites send processed information, not just raw data. It is a growing challenge for the roughly 100 remote sensing satellites launched each year, each carrying as many as eight payload instruments. Flash-based field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology is now being applied to the problem, combining high-speed signal processing with special built-in radiation mitigation techniques to keep systems operational in harsh radiation environments.