What is SpaceVPX or VITA 78?

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- everything RF

Sep 3, 2023

SpaceVPX, based on the VITA 78 standard, is a high-performance computing platform tailored for space applications. The VITA (VMEbus International Trade Association) standards have a long history of providing rugged, reliable, and versatile computing solutions for a wide range of industries. VITA 78 extends these benefits into the space domain, addressing the specific challenges and constraints faced by spaceborne electronics. SpaceVPX is based on the VITA OpenVPX standard with enhancements that extend the standard for space applications, designed to meet their demanding requirements, making it a game-changer in the aerospace industry.

SpaceVPX is a standard for creating plug-in cards (PICs) from its slot profile and module (protocol) profiles. In turn, these building blocks are used to create interconnected subsystems and systems. Developed under the auspices of The Next Generation Space Interconnect Standard (NGSIS), it is the result of a government-industry collaboration. The primary goal of SpaceVPX is to cost-effectively remove bandwidth as a constraint for future space systems.

The NGSIS team selected the OpenVPX standard family as the physical baseline for the new SpaceVPX standard because VPX supports both 3U and 6U form factors with ruggedized and conduction-cooled features suitable for use in extreme environments. The infrastructure of OpenVPX also allows for prototyping and testing SpaceVPX on the ground. 

Key Features of SpaceVPX/VITA 78

  • Radiation Hardened: One of the primary concerns in space electronics is exposure to ionizing radiation, which can degrade and damage electronic components over time. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 systems are designed to withstand the harsh radiation environment of space, ensuring the longevity and reliability of critical components. 

  • Modular and Scalable: SpaceVPX/VITA 78 adopts the VPX (VITA 46) form factor, which is highly modular & scalable and leverages the OpenVPX (VITA 65.0) architecture through its slot profile and module profile level building blocks, which is used to create interconnected subsystems and systems based on the user’s need. This allows for easy integration of various modules and cards, making it adaptable to different mission requirements. It also supports a range of processor architectures, enabling flexibility in design. 

  • High Data Transfer Rates: Space missions often require large amounts of data to be transmitted quickly and reliably. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 supports high-speed data transfer rates, making it ideal for applications like remote sensing, Earth observation, and deep-space exploration. 

  • Thermal Management: SpaceVPX/VITA 78 systems incorporate advanced thermal management solutions to dissipate heat efficiently in the vacuum of space. This ensures that components operate within their specified temperature ranges and prolongs their lifespan. 

  • Ruggedized: The harsh conditions of space, including extreme temperatures, vacuum, and micro-meteoroid impacts, can wreak havoc on electronic equipment. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 systems are ruggedized to withstand these challenges and maintain functionality.

Applications of SpaceVPX/VITA 78

The versatility and resilience of SpaceVPX/VITA 78 make it suitable for a wide range of spaceborne applications: 

  • Satellite Systems: SpaceVPX/VITA 78 is well-suited for satellite missions, where it can be used for onboard processing, data handling, and communication. 

  • Space Probes and Rovers: Deep-space missions require robust and reliable electronics. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 can be integrated into space probes and rovers to ensure data collection and transmission. 

  • Space Telescopes: Instruments like space telescopes demand high-performance computing to process vast amounts of astronomical data. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 can enhance the capabilities of such missions. 

  • Human Spaceflight: For manned missions to the International Space Station (ISS) or future lunar and Mars expeditions, SpaceVPX/VITA 78 can serve as the backbone of onboard computing and control systems. 

SpaceVPX/VITA 78 represents a significant leap forward in the field of spaceborne electronics. Its combination of radiation-hardened components, modular design, high-speed data transfer capabilities, thermal management, and ruggedness make it an ideal choice for space missions of all types. 

As space exploration continues to expand into new frontiers, the need for reliable and adaptable technology becomes paramount. SpaceVPX/VITA 78 provides the foundation for advanced spaceborne systems that can withstand the harshest conditions, ensuring the success and safety of future missions beyond our planet. This innovative technology is poised to revolutionize space electronics and contribute to humanity's ongoing exploration of the cosmos.