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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

Dependable RISC-V Soft-Core Processor Investigation for SpaceCube v3.0 Mini

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

This effort aims to incorporate high-performance RISC-V processors into SpaceCube technology for enhanced onboard science data processing.

The objective of this project is to investigate RISC-V soft-core processors and demonstrate their capability for flight by integrating them into the SpaceCube v3.0 Mini (SC3-Mini), which features a Xilinx UltraScale FPGA. With complex, next-gen sensors producing ever-increasing volumes of data, there is a growing need for high-performance, reliable onboard processing capabilities that the SC3-Mini offers to provide data reduction/compression, onboard product generation, automated health and status monitoring, etc. However, the proprietary MicroBlaze soft-core processor traditionally used on SC3-Mini has significant limitations due to its antiquated architecture, restricted configurability, and limited adoption in industry. Therefore, this project aims to explore open-source RISC-V soft-core processor implementations, which can leverage a widely-adopted and growing hardware/software ecosystem that is able to construct highly configurable processors to meet the variety of mission requirements.

Additionally, the RISC-V ecosystem supports a variety of specialized computational units capable of speeding up intensive workloads such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tasks. This project will investigate several of these accelerators, including the Gemmini systolic array generator and NVIDIA Deep Learning Accelerator, and build them into integrated solutions capable of running on the SpaceCube platform.

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