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Nasa, Air Force Define Cutting-Edge Next-Gen Space Computer

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NASA's Hubble space telescope.

Credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate today issued a call for research and development into a next-generation computer system for spacecraft.

The Next Generation Space Processor (NGSP) would include a radiation-hardened, general-purpose multicore chip and associated software for use in a variety of military and civil-space missions, in a range of spacecraft sizes with different power, mass, and volume constraints.

"Computer processors and applications aboard spacecraft will need to transform dramatically to take advantage of computational leaps in technology and new mission needs," says NASA's Michael Gazarik. "NASA's Space Technology Program is teaming with the Air Force to develop the next-generation spaceflight processor requirements and propose solutions to meet future high-performance space computing needs in the upcoming decades."

The Air Force says its requirements are similar to NASA's but could change over time, and both agencies concede that their processor objectives are challenging and might not be complete at this time. Radiation is a challenge with developing space systems, and NASA has previously discussed using radiation-hardened processors, noting that such systems contain extra transistors that take more energy to switch on and off.

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