Bringing Fault-Tolerant GigaHertz-Computing to Space: A Multi-Stage Software-Side Fault-Tolerance Approach for Miniaturized Spacecraft

by   Christian M. Fuchs, et al.

Modern embedded technology is a driving factor in satellite miniaturization, contributing to a massive boom in satellite launches and a rapidly evolving new space industry. Miniaturized satellites, however, suffer from low reliability, as traditional hardware-based fault-tolerance (FT) concepts are ineffective for on-board computers (OBCs) utilizing modern systems-on-a-chip (SoC). Therefore, larger satellites continue to rely on proven processors with large feature sizes. Software-based concepts have largely been ignored by the space industry as they were researched only in theory, and have not yet reached the level of maturity necessary for implementation. We present the first integral, real-world solution to enable fault-tolerant general-purpose computing with modern multiprocessor-SoCs (MPSoCs) for spaceflight, thereby enabling their use in future high-priority space missions. The presented multi-stage approach consists of three FT stages, combining coarse-grained thread-level distributed self-validation, FPGA reconfiguration, and mixed criticality to assure long-term FT and excellent scalability for both resource constrained and critical high-priority space missions. Early benchmark results indicate a drastic performance increase over state-of-the-art radiation-hard OBC designs and considerably lower software- and hardware development costs. This approach was developed for a 4-year European Space Agency (ESA) project, and we are implementing a tiled MPSoC prototype jointly with two industrial partners.


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