Alpha Data 2022: Year in Review
Alpha Data achieved significant milestones in 2022 as it pushed the envelope for performance electronics. These achievements are grounded in industry-wide collaboration and call attention to Alpha Data’s expertise, at the crossroads of the electronics, aviation, defence and space industries . Each of the successes achieved in 2022 demonstrate our capacity to fulfil the most challenging scientific and computing demands.
NASA JPL’s EMIT and the FPIE-D
The resounding success of the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) stands out as a key achievement for Alpha Data this year. This groundbreaking mission was formulated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to fill a critical gap in our understanding of Earth’s dust cycle. From the exterior truss of the International Space Station (ISS), EMIT studies the heating and cooling effects of dust clouds blown from arid regions across vast distances. Alpha Data was chosen to provide EMIT’s Focal Plane Interface Electronics–Digital (FPIE-D) – a data acquisition, cloud-screening, compression, storage and downlink computing system. Alpha Data being chosen as Partner for this indispensable piece of hardware speaks volumes on its long-standing and fruitful relationship with NASA JPL.
The Collaborative Efforts
The work was split between our team in Littleton, Colorado, who designed and manufactured the hardware, while our Edinburgh Team provided software and firmware in collaboration with Mercury Systems and Correct Design. The FPIE-D continuously scans 328 spectral bands and handles high data rates, allowing it to store detailed images of EMIT’s target regions, built over the course of multiple revisits by the ISS. The FPIE-D features a powerful SoC FPGA (System-on-a-Chip Field-Programmable Gate Array)-based system to deliver Alpha Data’s signature performance computing in the high-radiation environment. The EMIT FPIE-D board design is based on a standard Alpha Data COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf). Alpha Data Inc. in Colorado, modified the board to meet the mission’s stringent requirements, resulting in a rugged electronic package capable of delivering mission-critical performance.
Certified for High-Radiation Environments
Our new, defence-grade, ADM-VPX3-9Z5 System on a Module (SoM) was successfully validated for launch into orbit. The Defense-Grade ADM-VPX3-9Z5 is produced by Alpha Data in collaboration with Xilinx and Texas Instruments. This new product, is an off-the-shelf, SOSA-aligned OpenVPX standard SoM intended for defence applications. Its distinctive features again highlight Alpha Data’s robust industry relationship. Indeed, the board utilises the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ XQZU19EG FPGA and features Mil-temp Enhanced Plastic components from Texas Instruments for System Monitoring, Power and Temperature Sensing. The ADM-VPX3-9Z5 is also compliant with the auxiliary I/O in low-voltage (LVAUX) mode for Single Event Effects (SEE) mitigation. The ADM-VPX3-9Z5 provides a hard-wearing module in a 3U-VPX form factor, which can be used for everything from early lab development to test, qualification and deployment in rugged environments. Environmental testing was conducted by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the Higgs Centre for Innovation. ADM-VPX3-9Z5 passed these stringent tests with flying colours. Previously subjected to the NASA GSFC-STD-7000A testing standards, the ADM-VPX3-9Z5 exceeded expectations for performance under a range of vibration conditions typical of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space launch and similar atmospheric operations. In fact, the board surpassed acceptance levels of vibration and the VITA47 specification by 1.4x and 1.6x respectively. In addition to EMIT’s successful deployment, the ADM-VPX3-9Z5’s certification continues to assert Alpha Data’s ability to support customers from the off-the-shelf design board to deployment with high performance.
Space 2.0 and the ADK-VA600
2022 saw Alpha Data herald the next generation of adaptable data processing in space with the the launch of our brand-new ADK-VA600 Versal AI Core Development Kit. Growing from Alpha Data’s experience in creating Dev-kits for space-ready hardware, we teamed up with AMD Xilinx, Texas Instruments, Teledyne e2v and Infineon Technologies to bring the game-changing Xilinx XQR Versal AI Core VC1902 ACAP to the NewSpace market. The ADK-VA600 offers a radiation-tolerant reference design and introduces a step-increase in processing power for SWAP-constrained missions.
The board brings together the best-in-class of the industry, featuring Space-Enhanced Plastics (SEP) power management and critical systems monitoring devices from Texas Instruments, rad-tolerant DDR4 memory from Teledyne e2v and rad-tolerant flash memory from Infineon Technologies. Moreover, it also includes an accessible front panel VITA 57.4
FMC+ site for advanced I/O and Data Converter module connectivity. An accompanying VPX Rear Transition Module provides further I/O flexibility, advanced system monitoring, test access and target scrubbing features. Together, these components make the ADK-VA600 a powerful, space-enhanced board suited for multi-year missions in Low-Earth Orbit. Moreover, the board’s form factor follows Alpha Data’s tradition of continuity from design and development through to deployment. The 6U VPX form factor ensures the board can be easily developed in the lab and 6U Space VPX equivalent is available for rapid deployment in extreme environments.
Looking back on a fruitful year, Alpha Data is proud to work with its outstanding partners and collaborators and as 2022 concludes, we look forward to another year of pushing the boundaries of high performance electronics.