The use of COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) parts in space for electronics is increasingly becoming a significant enabler for many capabilities during a mission. This STTR project will provide a better understanding of the feasibility of COTS electronics for High Performance Computing (HPC) in space environments which are already heavily shielded. This STTR team (Alphacore + Vanderbilt University) proposes innovative strategies, based on a complete system analysis of HPC COTS that include, but are not limited to, identifying the vulnerable aspects of COTS-based HPC systems, failure modes and their propagation through the system, as well as selected parts radiation testing, to mitigate radiation induced impacts to potential HPC systems in those highly shielded space environments, such as manned missions and human habitats.
This proposal aims to (i) evaluate radiation performance of sub-systems of an HPC system, (ii) develop mitigation techniques for each sub-system, and (iii) determine if NASA specs for space deployment can be met by the redesigned system using COTS components.
The radiation effects model has two aspects: systems modeling language (SysML), and goal structuring notation (GSN), from which it can produce reliability objects for evaluating mission reliability of spacecraft: discrete Bayesian Nets (BN) and Fault Trees (FT). Using SysML, the target system is modeled via functional decomposition diagrams, architectural diagrams via block diagram models, fault propagation diagrams, which constitute a complete description of a spacecraft (or subsystem) with multiple functions. GSN is used to create a visual argument structure highlighting goals and strategies to achieve required top-level function in given space environment for mission life. These goals and strategies are supported by solutions such as radiation testing or mitigation strategies. The methods will be extensively verified and validated by multiple irradiation tests (neutron, proton, alpha).
The results from this project will be relevant to any NASA mission or project and any space mission that intends to send humans beyond LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with a High-Performance Computing (HPC) system. An HPC ecosystem is also of interest to Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Immediate infusion targets include Mars Fetch Rover, WFIRST/Chronograph, Gateway, SPLICE/Lunar Lander. This proposal addresses NASA needs described in the latest 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps such as Space Weather Forecasting.
Private enterprises that have based their business on spaceflight can make use of this technology to reduce their loads when embarking on missions to space. Future constellations of small communications satellites will blanket the Earth with Internet connectivity as well. Other countries are also participating in space exploration driving the global market for radiation hardened electronics.