HomeTechnologyArtificial intelligenceProgrammable AI SoC Built to Handle Space Hazards

Programmable AI SoC Built to Handle Space Hazards

amd reaches for the stars with a new programmable space-grade Versal SoC that promises to put more on-device machine learning and high-bandwidth signal processing on satellites and other space systems.

The Santa Clara, California-based company said its XQR Versal AI Core SoC has completed a Class B qualification, meaning the Chip designed by Xilinx meets US military standards for safe operation in space.

The chips in satellites and other systems launched into orbit must be insensitive to the radiation that hits spacecraft after they leave Earth’s atmosphere. Heavy doses of radiation in orbit can wreak havoc on chips with inadequate shielding. The chips must also be able to withstand harsh vibrations and shocks that can cause permanent damage, as well as the large temperature fluctuations in space that shorten their lifespan.

With the space-qualified XQRVC1902, AMD aims to tap into the burgeoning “new space” market as companies fill the skies with satellites for space-based communications and remote sensing missions. The space-bound silicon belongs to the Versal SoC family that came across in AMD’s $49 billion acquisition of Xilinx earlier this year.

Performance that meets the needs of the next generation

While Xilinx chips are already widely used in aerospace and defense equipment, the XQR Versal family enables faster data processing aboard orbiting satellites without offloading it to ground-based data centers. AMD said it represents a “huge leap” in performance because in the past it was only possible to run AI directly on satellites with custom chips, which are “prohibitively expensive” for most space missions.

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Raytheon, a leader in the US aerospace and defense industry, apparently plans to use the new radiation-tolerant XQR Versal SoC in “next-generation space processors” that will power future satellites and spacecraft.

“Its heterogeneous computational capabilities and reconfigurable logic structure enable our teams to integrate more onboard processing into a significantly smaller footprint, enabling unprecedented advancements in size, weight and power at the system level,” said Barry Liu, Sr. director of space systems Bee Raytheon intelligence and space.

Manufactured on a 7-nm node, the space-grade Versal SoC includes a dual-core Arm Cortex-A72, dual-core Arm Cortex-R5 embedded CPUs, and 400 AI computer engines, combined with the same type of programmable logic at the heart of the Xilinx FPGAs with 191 MB of memory. A network-on-chip (NoC) connects all the building blocks of hardcore peripherals for connectivity and security in a robust 45×45mm organic BGA package.

What sets the XQR Versal AI Core SoC apart from other space-grade chips is that it can be reconfigured after it’s already in the hands of customers, AMD said. The chip can also be reprogrammed remotely after satellites or other spacecraft are already circling the globe in the harsh radiation environment of space. It is also compatible with the Xilinx Vivado software toolkit and the Vitis AI software platform.

AMD said it has thoroughly tested the XQR Versal SoC with independent organizations to confirm that it can withstand the harsh radiation in low Earth orbits (LEOs), geosynchronous orbits and even further into space.

With the new Class B rating, the Versal Space SoC should begin shipping to its aerospace and defense customers in early 2023.

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