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NASA selects RISC-V CPU for next-gen spaceflight processor

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By Rich Pell

RISC-V processor IP provider SiFive has announced that it has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to provide the core CPU for NASA’s next generation High-Performance Spaceflight Computing (HPSC) processor. HPSC is expected to be used in virtually every future space mission, from planetary exploration to lunar and Mars surface missions.

HPSC will utilize an eight-core, SiFive Intelligence X280 RISC-V vector core, as well as four additional SiFive RISC-V cores, to deliver 100x the computational capability of today’s space computers. This massive increase in computing performance will help usher in new possibilities for a variety of mission elements such as autonomous rovers, vision processing, space flight, guidance systems, communications, and other applications, says the company.

“As the leading RISC-V, U.S. based, semiconductor company we are very proud to be selected by the premier world space agency to power their most mission critical applications,” says Jack Kang, SVP Business Development, SiFive. “The X280 demonstrates orders of magnitude performance gains over competing processor technology and our SiFive RISC-V IP allows NASA to take advantage of the support, flexibility, and long-term viability of the fast-growing global RISC-V ecosystem. We’ve always said that with SiFive the future has no limits, and we’re excited to see the impact of our innovations extend well beyond our planet.”

The SiFive X280 is a multi-core capable RISC-V processor with vector extensions and SiFive Intelligence Extensions and is optimized for AI/ML compute at the edge. The X280 is offered as ideal for applications requiring high-throughput, single-thread performance while under significant power constraints.

The X280 has demonstrated a 100x increase in compute capabilities compared to today’s space computers, says the company. In scientific and space workloads, the X280 provides several orders of magnitude improvement compared to competitive CPU solutions.

The open and collaborative nature of RISC-V, says the company, will allow the broad academic and scientific software development community to contribute and develop scientific applications and algorithms, as well optimizing the many math functions, filters, transforms, neural net libraries, and other software libraries, as part of a robust and long-term software ecosystem. The HPSC processor and X280 compute subsystem is expected to be useful to other government agencies in a variety of applications including industrial automation, edge computing, ratification intelligence, and aerospace applications.

SiFive
NASA


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