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Addressing New Space Challenges with COTS-to-Rad-Tolerant Technology

COTS-to rad-tolerant devices products provide unique, scalable solutions to address the New Space Challenges.


Developing radiation-hardened systems for space applications has a history of long lead times and high cost toward achieving the necessary levels of reliability for multi-year missions in harsh environments. A growing number of New Space and other critical aerospace missions require faster development and reduced costs. Until recently, the only alternatives to expensive radiation-hardened devices were pure Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) devices or the use of upscreened variants – the former being inherently risky and the latter costly and time-consuming.

Microchip’s solution combines the low-cost access of a proven COTS device with the benefits of wide market deployment and development facilities, as well as an improved level of radiation tolerance. Microchip’s scalable development approach is called COTS-to-radiation-tolerant.

In this approach, Microchip takes a proven automotive- or industrial-qualified device and improves the silicon process to make the component immune to single-event latch-up in heavy ions, thus preventing destruction in the radiation environment of space. The slightly modified device is then fully characterized in terms of radiation, with a complete and dedicated radiation report by functional blocks.

The rad-tolerant device inherits the same design with the same mask set as the original COTS part and benefits from pinout compatibility in both high-reliability plastic and space-grade ceramic packages. Developing with a COTS device that can be swapped out for a fully functional high-reliability plastic or ceramic equivalent with the same pinout reduces development time, costs and risk for developers.

Alongside design and cost flexibility in different packages that are compatible with each other, the company offers space-grade ceramic rad-tolerant parts with QML class V or QML class Q screening. Also available is a high-reliability plastic version based on Aerospace Qualified Electronic Component (AQEC) quality standard for volume production and recurring programs. The devices are specified for an operating temperature range of -55°C to +125°C and full traceability.

New COTS-RadTolerant Ethernet Transceiver

The new VSC8540/41RT Gigabit Ethernet PHY RMII / RGMII Transceiver is the last Microchip’s COTS-to-radiation tolerant device upgraded for space applications.

This transceiver is a single-port Gigabit Ethernet copper solution with Reduced Gigabit Media Independent Interface (RGMII) and G.M.I.I and is also supporting Reduced Megabit Media Independent Interface (RMII) and M. I. I as Megabit solution.

Radiation performances have been characterized and documented in a detailed report. The VSC8541RT is latch-up immune up to 78 Mev; TID has been tested up to 100 Krad. With the same rad-tolerant die and package, a 100 MB limited bitrate performance VSC8540RT is also available in plastic and ceramic qualified versions, which provides performance and cost scalability for targeted missions.

This new RT device complements the Microchip’s suite of radiation-tolerant MCU solutions with Ethernet controller capabilities: The SAMV71Q21RT Arm® M7 MCU up 600DMIPS and SAM3X8ERT MCU Arm® Cortex®-M3 core processor, delivering 100 DMIPS. 

In addition to its ATmegaS128/64M1 8-bit MCU RT series already in small sat LEO constellation and sharing its same MPLAB® development tools, Microchip’s COTS-to rad-tolerant devices products provide unique, scalable solutions to address the New Space challenges. Discover more about Microchip’s technology for space applications.  

Nicolas Ganry, Sep 24, 2020