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Evaluation of European SRAM-based FPGA using the ESA VHDL IP-Core Library

Microelectronics have at all times been a complicated area in space technology, the radiation environment have always created heavy restriction. This is still true today, but development of new and better devices has steadily opened up this field for new applications.

FPGAs have been used in space for some time now, but that is mostly One-Time Programmable devices. Only a few reprogrammable FPGA have flown on real space missions, but in the near future this technology can cut down on development time and open up for new exciting applications in space. The Microelectronics Section in ESA has received a design kit, AT40KEL-DK, for a reprogrammable FPGA developed in Europe by ATMEL. This FPGA is radiation harded and is of large interest for ESA and parts of the space industry.

This report has focused on the overall evaluation of AT40KEL-DK and all of its content. The design kit contains both the evaluation board and the FPGA, together with the required software. The approach has been to use the ESA VHDL IP-core library and try to implement one of its designs into the FPGA. The IP-core chosen was a SpaceWire codec developed by the University of Dundee. In addition to the test with the codec, the FPGA was also tested with smaller designs to assess additional characteristics like clock speed limitations.

The report will first give a brief background of subjects touched by the project and then describe the project itself and its objectives. It is then possible to read about the preparations before the description of the two major tests are presented in Ch. 6 and 7. The report is then to be completed with a conclusion and discussion.

Abstract:

AT40KEL-DK is a design kit from ATMEL, including the Rad Hard SRAM-based reprogrammable FPGA AT40KEL040. The use of reprogrammable FPGAs in space is fairly limited since they are often sensitive to radiation. Today only a few reprogrammable FPGAs have flown on real space missions, but in the near future this technology can cut down on development time and open up for new applications in space. Most of the mentioned technology is at present developed in USA with export restrictions, which makes it even more interesting with a European product.

This Master Thesis has focused on the overall evaluation of AT40KEL-DK and all of its content. The design kit contains both the evaluation board and the FPGA, together with the required software. The approach has been to use the ESA VHDL IP-core library and try to implement one of its designs into the FPGA. The IP-core chosen was a SpaceWire codec developed by the University of Dundee. In addition to the test with the codec, the FPGA was also tested with smaller designs to assess additional characteristics like clock speed limitations.

The timeframe of the project was rather limiting and there was only time for a few test results. Instead the project focused on its main objective, a general assessment of the whole design kit. The experiences of both the software and the hardware were documented and given as feedback to ATMEL, as well as laying the foundation for further testing by ESA.
Author: Håkan Helzenius
Source: Lulea University of Technology

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