Most modern electronics aren’t designed to hold up in the harsh conditions of space, which is why there’s a market for devices specifically built for use beyond Earth. There’s a new processor for satellites and other devices in space, and it’s from PC hardware company AMD.
AMD, the company best known for selling desktop processors and discrete graphics cards, has announced that one of its “space-grade Versal adaptive SoCs” will start shipping to buyers in early 2023. Unlike most of AMD’s popular products, this isn’t intended for use in PCs or servers — it’s a System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design for satellites and other devices that need to be functional in the depths of outer space. AMD says it has “full radiation tolerance,” which is important when you’re beyond the reach of Earth’s natural radiation protection.
AMD said in a press release, “the XQR Versal adaptive SoC supports reprogramming during development as well as after deployment, including in-flight in the harsh radiation environment of space. This permits satellite operators to change processing algorithms after a satellite has been launched, allowing for previously unavailable flexibility in remote sensing and communications applications.” AMD’s announcement also includes praise from Raytheon, a defense contractor best known for creating the “Patriot” missile and making billions of dollars from armed conflicts around the world, plans to use the Versal chips in its own processor designs.
The chipset has a dual-core Arm Cortex-A72 and Arm Cortex-R5 processors, making it a distant cousin of the Apple Silicon chips found in modern Macs, fabricated on a 7nm CMOS process. The chip was developed by AMD’s Xilinx division, which used to be an independent company until it was acquired earlier this year.
Even though the only customers for AMD’s new chip are companies producing space hardware, it’s another milestone for ARM chips in the final frontier.
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