"An Architecture for Reconfigurable Computing in Space"

Robert F. Hodson1, Kevin Somervill1, John Williams2, Neil Bergman2, Rob Jones3

2University of Queensland
3ASRC Aerospace


One of the strategic challenges put forth by NASAís Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is Reconfigurability. Reconfigurable systems are defined as systems that can be reconfigured following initial deployment, enable adaptation to new circumstances, and/or evolve to support high level system options. The Reconfigurable Scalable Computing (RSC) project funded through NASA is a four-year project to define and build a space-qualified reconfigurable computing platform to support NASA missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This paper outlines the fundamental hardware and software platforms to support reconfigurability at the system level and also addresses design tools and languages to enable space application engineers to be able to quickly and easily make best use of the features of these platforms.

The RSC project has defined a high-level hardware architecture to support the reconfiguration of resources in rad-tolerant Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). The architecture is modular, allowing resources to be added or removed from the system. The architecture can scale to support the computing requirements for future missions. The hardware supports the capability to mitigate against soft errors due to Single Event Effects. The hardware can support a communicating processor paradigm utilizing soft core processors in FPGAs.

The RSC projectís software architecture supports traditional Hardware Description Languages (HDLs) for programming resources for specialized functions or operations, but it also has several high-level development options. The RSC will support programming with the graphical Viva environment. Also traditional high-level language support, like C, will be supported on soft core processing elements with a message passing system for Inter-Process Communication. The RSC architecture is developed to provide a unified hardware/software approach providing a reconfigurable hardware platform with a robust software/configure-ware environment.

The RSC effort is ongoing and continues to refine and enhance its architecture. Prototype reconfigurable hardware development is underway along with a robotic demonstration system. The RSC project draws upon the experience of a diverse team from NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, The University of Queensland, ARSC Aerospace, Jefferson Laboratory, Starbridge Systems, and the National Security Agency.


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