Xilinx unveils 20nm space-grade FPGA for space applications

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Xilinx has announced the industry’s first 20nm space-grade FPGA, delivering full radiation tolerance and ultra-high throughput and bandwidth performance for satellite and space applications.

The 20nm Radiation Tolerant (RT) Kintex UltraScale XQRKU060 FPGA provides unlimited on-orbit reconfiguration, a10x increase in digital signal processing (DSP) performance and full radiation tolerance across all orbits.

The device also brings high performance machine learning (ML) to space for the first time. A broad portfolio of ML development tools are available to support industry standard frameworks, including TensorFlow and PyTorch, enabling neural network inference acceleration for real-time on-board processing in space with a complete “process and analyse” solution.

The XQRKU060’s power-efficient compute, scalable precision and large on-chip memory, provides 5.7 tera operations per second (TOPs) of peak INT8 performance optimised for deep learning, representing a nearly 25X increase compared to the prior generation.

Building on Xilinx’s space heritage and highly successful 65nm space-grade devices, the launch of the first 20nm part for space applications advances the space industry by three process node generations. It delivers a significant reduction in size, weight and power, and is engineered with robust radiation tolerant features and provides customers with a space-resilient device equipped to handle both short and long duration missions in harsh space environments.

The XQRKU060's on-orbit reconfiguration capabilities, together with real-time on-board processing and ML acceleration, allows satellites to update in real-time, deliver video-on-demand, and perform compute “on-the-fly” to process complex algorithms. The ML capabilities are suitable to a variety of problems spanning scientific analysis, object detection, and image classification – such as cloud detection – enabling improved processing efficiency and reduced decision latency both in space and on the ground.

As protocols and applications progressively change, the adaptive compute architecture of the XQRKU060 allows unlimited on-orbit reconfiguration to enable customers to perform last-minute product updates prior to launch, as well as after it has been deployed in orbit.

The XQRKU060 offers rich DSP capabilities which have been optimised for dense power-efficient compute. It is equipped with 2,760 UltraScale DSP slices and provides up to 1.6 TeraMACs of signal processing compute, more than a 10X increase compared to the prior generation, as well as dramatic efficiency gains for floating point computations. The increased compute capability in space is paired with massive I/O bandwidth from 32 high-speed transceivers (SerDes) that can run up to 12.5Gbps to deliver 400Gbps aggregate bandwidth.

The FPGA also features robust 40x40mm ceramic packaging capable of withstanding vibrations and handling during launch as well as radiation effects in harsh orbit environments. The architecture has been designed for single event effects (SEE) mitigation thereby meeting the industry requirements for all orbits, including low earth orbit (LEO), medium earth orbit (MEO), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), and deep space missions.

The XQRKU060 also brings with it a new, simplified development environment with the Xilinx Vivado Design Suite. The redesigned routing architecture provides extensive routing capacity to resolve common industry bottleneck challenges. Programming with the Vivado Design Suite helps to eliminate routing congestion, allowing more than 90 percent of the device to be used without any performance degradation..

Additionally, the Vitis unified software platform provides support for embedded software development on the Triple Modular Redundant (TMR)-capable MicroBlaze soft processor. Future extensions will add support for Vitis AI, the Xilinx unified software platform for AI inference on Xilinx devices and production cards.