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Posted: Apr 11, 2013
NASA, Air Force seek next generation space processor program
(Nanowerk News) NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., are requesting research and development proposals to define the type of spacecraft computing needed for future missions.
Through a broad agency announcement, the Air Force Next Generation Space Processor Analysis Program is seeking two to four companies to perform a yearlong evaluation of advanced space based applications that would use spaceflight processors for the 2020-2030 time frame.
"Computer processors and applications aboard spacecraft will need to transform dramatically to take advantage of computational leaps in technology and new mission needs," said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "NASA's Space Technology Program is teaming with the Air Force to develop the next generation spaceflight processor requirements and propose solutions to meet future high performance space computing needs in the upcoming decades."
Processor applications could include autonomous pinpoint landing with hazard detection and avoidance during entry, descent and landing during moon or Mars missions; real-time segmented mirror control for large space-based telescopes; onboard real-time analysis of multi-megapixel-level hyperspectral image data; autonomous onboard situational analysis and real-time mission planning; and real-time mode-based spacecraft-level fault protection.
The broad agency announcement will involve a competitive selection process. The NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate team plans to award a cost-reimbursement contract worth about $2 million to be shared by the selected companies during a period of one year.
Studies done in the first three months will determine and define the required computing performance for these advanced applications and compare their findings with the government's preliminary requirements. Awardees then will have nine months to develop spaceflight processing architecture solutions to a set of NASA and Air Force requirements, based on progress and availability of funds.
Based on the results of the study effort, a chosen team may develop the spaceflight processor during a follow-on effort. A contract award of about $20 million during a period as long as four years could be made based on availability of funds. The intent would be to develop a spaceflight microprocessor capable of providing high-performance space computing capabilities required for advanced space missions through 2030.