BAE Systems’ new radiation-hardened computer is ready to serve in space

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Aerospace and defense technology company BAE Systems is debuting its next-generation hardened computer designed for space-based use. The new RAD5545 single-board computer beats its predecessor in size, speed and efficiency, BAE says, with “exponential” improvements in all categories – all in a package that’s hardware hardened against ambient radiation, which means it can work reliably in the challenging conditions of outer space for protracted periods.

The RAD5545 is designed to be simpler than computers used on previous generations of space-faring vehicles and satellites, since it replaces multiple cards with just one. It can also unlock new capabilities for future spacecraft, including encryption, running multiple operating systems at once, processing extremely high-resolution images, autonomously operating spacecraft and more.

Each of these tasks was beyond the capabilities of previous single-board computers designed for space, according to BAE. But the BAE Systems track record in hardening is well-proven, since it has supplied satellite and spacecraft processors and computers for nearly 30 years, with over 900 computers installed on over 300 satellites launched in that timeframe.

Hardening is a key aspect of space-based computing, and will be crucial for planned long-term missions to Mars, which might increase the exposure risks for electronics. HPE is now engaged in a software-hardening test of its own off-the-shelf supercomputer, but single-board computers like this one from BAE will still be instrumental in providing basic operational capability to any spacecraft hoping to reach the red planet.