COTS to Rad Tolerant Microchip Products for 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 NewSpace 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 use of upscreened variants – the former being inherently risky and the latter costly and time consuming. Microchip recently introduced an approach that combines the low cost access of a COTS device with the benefits of wide market deployment and development facilities, as well as an improved level of radiation tolerance.

Microchip’s ATmegaS64M1 8-bit megaAVR® microcontroller (MCU) uses a development approach called COTS-to-radiation-tolerant. In this approach, Microchip takes a proven automotive-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. ATmegaS64M1 MCU qualified Flight Models (FM) are now available with screening equivalent to QML class Q and QML class V standards.

Alongside design and cost flexibility in different packages that are compatible with each other, Microchip offers space grade ceramic rad tolerant parts with QML class V or QML class Q screening. Microchip also offers a high-reliability plastic version with qualification up to QML class N military grade for volume production and recurring programs. The devices are specified for an operating temperature range of -55°C to +125°C and full traceability.

ATmegaS64M1 low-power MCU brings the leading AVR® core with CAN capabilities to the aerospace industry. It is the first COTS-to-radiation-tolerant MCU to combine a Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) and motor control capabilities. These features make it ideal for a variety of subsystems like remote terminal controllers and data handling functions for satellites, constellations, launchers or critical avionic applications. The ATmegaS64M1 is designed to meet radiation tolerances with the following targeted performances:

• Immune from Single-Event Latch-up (SEL) up to 62 MeV.cm²/mg
• No Single-Event Functional Interrupts (SEFI) which secure memory integrity
• Accumulated Total Ionizing Dose (TID) 30 Krad(Si)
• Single Event Upset (SEU) characterization for all functional blocks

To further ease the design process and accelerate time to market, Microchip offers the STK 600 complete development board for the ATmegaS64M1, giving designers a quick start to develop code with advanced features for prototyping and testing new designs. The device is supported by Atmel Studio or Microchip MPLAB Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for developing, debugging and software libraries.

With this COTS-to-radiation-tolerant approach, Microchip also proposes the ATMEGAS128 8-bit megaAVR® MCU with flight heritage in different kinds of missions from ESA GOMX-4B to small sat LEO constellations. Microchip is also going to introduce in November the first ARM® Rad Tolerant MCU based on Cortex® M7, delivering up to 600DMIPS with DSP, TCM and Memory Fault Management capabilities (ECC & MPU). SAMV71Q21RT QFP144 samples in plastic and ceramic packages are already available for your design activities.

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