UNM's COSMIAC Center Working with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

September 29, 2009

The Configurable Space Microsystems Innovations and Applications Center (COSMIAC) is now doing collaborative research efforts with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. COSMIAC and NASA have submitted a joint proposal to help develop the next generation of small form factor programmable logic board for space called SpaceCube.

SpaceCubes are small satellites that measure 12” by 4” by 4” and can be sent into space for about $30,000. The satellites will carry a special Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) computer chip that can reprogrammed again and again.

For example, a SpaceCube might be sent into space to monitor the gamma rays that are a major part of space weather, but a change in mission could allow the owners of a SpaceCube with that capability to reprogram the satellite computer chip to send alert messages to telephone companies whose service might be disrupted by a burst by gamma rays.

COSMIAC is part of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNM and the Phillips Technology Institute. COSMIAC Director and Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Professor Steve Saddarth said, “SpaceCubes will provide new capabilities for satellites to use FPGA chips in ways that were not available before. FPGAs chips may allow us to build small, cheap satellites that can be launched quickly. We’ve never had the technical means to do this before.”

COSMIAC’s work with NASA is designed to make this possible by producing a new style of small circuit card to do this type of work. FPGAs are like chameleon chips where a chip becomes the hardware that is designed into it. An FPGA is a reconfigurable chip which can be programmed using a variety of different design methods. This can be accomplished an unlimited amount of times. COSMIAC funds undergraduate and graduate students to do this type of research.

COSMIAC has a long history of successfully creating FPGA learning laboratories and they were recently selected to develop the FPGA learning center within the NASA Goddard Center. COSMIAC’s role is to promote aerospace innovation through the reliable and responsible use of configurable technology in military and aerospace systems.

For more information visit: http://www.cosmiac.org or contact Craig Kief at, (505) 242-0339 or craig.kief@cosmiac.org.