Title of Paper: Reconfigurable Data Path Processor for Spacecraft Instruments

Principal Author: Gregory W. Donohoe


Abstract:  The Reconfigurable Data Path Processor (RDPP) is an ultra-low-power, radiation-tolerant, monolithic multiprocessor under development by GSFC and the Institute for Advanced Microelectronics at the University of New Mexico for data-intensive spacecraft instrument data processing. The RDPP implements a synchronous computational pipeline, employing a novel dynamic data switching technique to achieve high throughput and flexibility with a reconfigurable data path.


The RDPP employs 16 configurable processing elements connected by a hierarchical interconnection network. High-performance sequential processors and digital signal processors achieve high throughput with fast clock speeds, cache memory, and instruction pipelining, while field-programmable gate arrays gain high speed with parallel data paths. These techniques exact high price in power consumption, however, and are difficult to make radiation tolerant. The RDPP falls between the fine-grained configurability of FPGAs and the coarse-grained sequential processors. Designed for the ultra-low-power, radiation tolerant CMOS technology developed at the Institute for Advanced Microelectronics, it is anticipated that the RDPP will achieve a throughput of 50 MSamples/sec on image and signal processing applications with two orders of magnitude less power consumption than conventional processors.


RDPP program is developing an extensive set of software tools to make it designer-friendly. The synchronous data flow model of the RDPP is familiar to users of application development tools such as Matlab/Simulink, and the RDPP software is designed to integrate smoothly with such environments. The RDPP software suite will include tools for converting floating point data representations to fixed point with minimum loss of precision, as well as an application compiler and a simulator.


The paper presents an overview of the Reconfigurable Data Path Processor, including the architecture, hardware development, and software, along with preliminary performance estimates.