RISC-V to power future space missions

NASA’s High-Performance Space Computing (HPSC) project aims to develop flight computing technology capable of providing 100x the computational capacity of current spaceflight computers. As part of the HPSC project, in 2021, NASA invited qualified vendors to submit proposals on advanced radiation-hardened computing chip technology.

A year later, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA announced they selected Microchip to architect, design, and deliver the HPSC processor for future lunar and planetary exploration missions under a $50 million contract over the next three years. The next-generation mission-critical compute processor will redefine what is possible for the future of robust autonomous space missions. Furthermore, its use cases are not limited to space exploration but include systems for the aerospace and defence industry and the broader commercial mass market of edge-critical compute applications.

Who will provide the core CPU and demonstrate drastically improved performance gains over competing processor technology? The answer is the pioneers leading the RISC-V revolution. SiFive revealed an Intelligence X280 RISC-V vector core will power the HPSC to deliver 100x the computational capability of today’s space computers. According to SiFive, the multi-core X280 demonstrated several orders of magnitude improvements compared to competitive CPU solutions powering today’s space computers.

RISC‑V has seen rapid industry-wide adoption so far. Going beyond the Earth is a strong indicator the free and open ISA has the potential to be the new compute standard of the future.

Read more about NASA’s and SiFive’s announcements and tell us what you think!