In response to NASA SBIR Focus Area TA6, subtopic H4.01 Exploration Portable Life Support System (xPLSS), Alphacore Inc. have developed a low-profile, lightweight, high efficiency, mixed-signal (analog/digital) controlled Isolated DC/DC converter that addresses one of the listed critical technology gaps for NASA’s deep space and surface missions that involve Exploration EMU (xEMU). For spacesuit life support systems, there are a number of small point of load applications such as smart instruments, controllers that require small, low power output, isolated DC/DC converters with efficiencies 80% after derating. As part of Phase 1 work, Alphacore demonstrated the feasibility of the innovative technical approach which includes a self-calibrating topology to achieve maximum power transfer for a given lightweight isolation transformer and reach both high power conversion efficiency and lightweight profile for the entire converter module. Furthermore, Alphacore developed a full set of strategies utilizing radiation hardness by design (RHBD) techniques for the whole design flows to achieve high radiation hardness of the converter to increase reliability of space applications.
Fully integrated isolated DC-DC converters are essential for power monitoring, biomedical, and motor control applications where ground isolation is required. Several applications require traditional low-voltage CMOS data acquisition circuits to interface with very high common mode voltages. These include current sensors that operate at the high side of a voltage source, solar converters/inverters, DC motor controllers, FET drivers that switch high voltages and eMeter data products for smart grid management. Alphacore’s mixed-signal isolated DCDC converter controller enables use of a wide range of small transformers and capacitors through high frequency operation.
The applications for the ASIC are numerous since almost all spacecrafts need DC-DC converters. It is especially ideal for low power applications such as the next generation xEMU spacesuit and xPLSS for the future manned missions to the Moon, and Moon to Mars missions.
The DC-DC converter is a great match for NASA’s LEO and MEO missions and future deep space and Earth-observing missions. Past similar missions include ECOSTRESS, GeoCARB, HyspIRI, MAIA, InSAR, Pre-ACE, TEMPO, TROPICS and solar system exploration missions such as MAVEN.
The new Alphacore DC-DC converter is application-driven and is meant to be an excellent fit for key Small Size Weight and Power (SWaP) high-reliability (Hi-Rel), high-radiation tolerance levels applications such as the cubesats, nanosats, robotics, autonomous aircrafts/spacecrafts, and constellation satellites that may be operational in space environments.