Defense and space agency budgets remain flat while commercial small-satellite opportunities are heating up, all forcing radiation-hardened (rad-hard) electronic component designers to tackle reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements as well as re-examine the viability of using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment in space environments. Meanwhile, radiation testing and qualification requirements are getting tougher and embracing TOR standards.
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.