Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Radiation-Tolerant Microcontroller Advances Space-Grade Electronics

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Introducing the SAMD21RT microcontroller, a game-changer in space mission electronics. This 32-bit microcontroller is not just robust, but also highly radiation-tolerant, making it a perfect fit for the harshest conditions. 

The space exploration industry is witnessing a significant revival, driven by notable missions such as Artemis II, JAXA’s SLIM, and Chandaaryan-3, alongside New Space initiatives in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In this context, designers need electronic components that meet stringent radiation and reliability standards for the challenging space environment. Addressing this need, Microchip Technology introduces the SAMD21RT, a radiation-tolerant (RT) 32-bit microcontroller (MCU) based on the Arm Cortex-M0+, housed in a 64-pin ceramic and plastic package with 128 KB Flash and 16 KB SRAM.

The key features include:

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  • Compact 10 mm × 10 mm footprint
  • Operating temperature:Ranging from −40°C to 125°C
  • Operates at speeds up to 48 MHz
  • Delivers robust performance for demanding environments

Building on the SAMD21 MCU family, widely utilized in industrial and automotive sectors, it facilitates a seamless transition to a radiation-tolerant design due to its pinout compatibility with Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) devices. The company’s extensive system solution for space applications includes various components that can be integrated with the SAMD21RT, such as FPGAs, power and discrete devices, memory products, communication interfaces, and oscillators, catering to diverse qualification levels.

The microcontroller integrates essential analog functions, including a 20-channel Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC), a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), and analog comparators. It is designed to endure harsh conditions, including radiation and extreme temperatures. It boasts a high radiation tolerance, with a Total Ionizing Dose (TID) capacity of up to 50 krad and Single Event Latch-up (SEL) immunity of up to 78 MeV.cm²/mg. The low-power MCU includes idle and standby sleep modes and sleepwalking peripherals. Additional features comprise a 12-channel Direct Memory Access Controller (DMAC), a 12-channel event system, various Timer/Counters for Control (TCC), a 32-bit Real Time Counter (RTC), a Watchdog Timer (WDT), and a USB 2.0 interface. Communication options include Serial Communication (SERCOM), I2C, SPI, and LIN.

Bob Vampola, vice president of Microchip’s aerospace and defense business unit, stated, “Microchip leverages its extensive experience in designing and testing radiation-tolerant and hardened devices in-house. We are integrating advanced technologies like Ethernet, AI, and ML, refined from commercial and industrial markets, to meet space mission requirements. Our focus remains on enhancing computing performance and incorporating new technologies into smaller, lighter packages.”

Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Sondhi Gaur is a journalist at EFY. She has a German patent and brings a robust blend of 7 years of industrial & academic prowess to the table. Passionate about electronics, she has penned numerous research papers showcasing her expertise and keen insight.


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