Military tags $150M to build advanced space electronics

Space electronics

The US Air Force is looking for a big bump in the performance of space electronics.  So much so that it is offering a 5-year, $150 million program for technology researchers to build all manner of advanced space gear to include revolutionary materials, devices, processes, packaging, and architecture all while making make high-performance space electronics more affordable and reconfigurable.

Some specifics of what the Air Force is looking for include:

  • Radiation-hardened electronics: Radiation characterization of promising new devices and technologies with potential for application in space and nuclear radiation environments (includes data acquisition and data reduction).
  • Research and development of design, layout, processing, and systems design (e.g., glitch-resilient) techniques for improving the radiation hardness and reliability of analog, digital, microwave, and power electronics.
  • Physics-based modeling approaches of radiation effects on         electronic devices with dramatically enhanced performance (parallelization, acceleration).
  • "Knowledge based" reliability test/measurement, modeling/simulation, and analysis using accelerated test procedures at the wafer level with models of relevant physical mechanisms to extrapolate to lifetime estimates based on consideration of combinatorial effects from multiple failure mechanisms.
  • Novel development of logic systems, multi-state/analog systems, model checking approaches as they could apply to make it possible to more completely guarantee reliability of inherently unreliable elements in space systems and to promote improved engineering disciplines in the creation of reliable electronics devices, circuits, and systems.  This topic address fundamentals pertaining to complex, reliable systems: Can truly bullet-proof systems be made? What are the most efficient formulations and placements of temporal/spatial redundancy within a system's hierarchy?
  • Analysis/development of improved alloys for reconfigurable electronics and low power memories. 
  • Approaches to understanding the electronic properties, including point defects arising in processing and radiation environments, of new electronic materials for devices at or below the 32nm node are desired. Enhancements for parallel linear scaling density functional theory based electronic structure methods and complimentary multi-scale modeling methods are sought for the characterization of defects and computation of electronic properties of a wide range of new electronic materials. Materials of interest include what's known as high-k dielectrics and carbon nanotubes.
  • Reconfigurable/Programmable devices, circuits, subsystems, and applications for space systems.  Reconfigurability that introduces "degrees of freedom" in otherwise immutable elements, which can be a game changing concept that can allow: situational modification of features; improve resilience through circumlocution, etc.; and permit rapid system construction by configuring  pre-built elements.

The project is overseen by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate.   The Air Force said that  Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) would include multiple awards of contracts of various values with a period of performance ranging from 6 months to 60 months.

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