Today, it has become a necessity to change the technologies we have at certain intervals. We renew our technological devices once a year or every few years. However, the same system can be used for decades due to mandatory conditions.
23 years of technology went to space
We know that systems that are decades old are still in use, as their replacement and updating poses great risks or costs. For example, even if the standard support at ATM points ended, the Windows XP platform was used for a long time.
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On the other hand, such systems are also found in NASA. We see that decades-old computer systems are used for sustainability, as upgrading and updating poses a great risk or takes a long time.
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The Perseverance exploration vehicle, whose landing on the Martian surface made a big impact, is also working on a 23-year-old processor. Vehicle designed by BAE Systems RAD750 processor is based on the PowerPC 750 processor.
1998 iMac G3 included in the model PowerPC 750 The processor had features such as 233MHz single core, dynamic branching estimation, which is the basis today, 6 million transistors. Now, although these features seem very funny, it was at the forefront of efficiency at that time.
The biggest reason for using the RAD750 processor in the Perseverance vehicle is that the space environment is under very harsh conditions. Components to be used in the space environment must be durable due to intense radiation and sunlight. RAD750 processor is resistant to radiation between 200000-1000000 RAD and temperatures between -55-125 degrees. This processor is 200 thousand dollars each.
The answer to the question of whether a modern processor could be used instead of the RAD750 is no, because this type of special processor must have a special production process. In the current situation, this was not possible for NASA. Currently, around 100 satellites are using the RAD750 processor in space, and there has been no problem so far.
Of course, NASA is planning more modern hardware for the future, and Boeing has received a tender for it. Studies continue for an ARM-based and special conditions-resistant multi-core space-oriented processor.
On the other hand, the helicopter in the reconnaissance vehicle is a more modern processor; It features the Snapdragon 801 chipset. Since the decision was made on this processor at the beginning of the project, it was continued. However, it is stated that a Linux-based distribution is preferred because NASA does not support existing software.