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Accelerating Space Development with Low Power, Radiation-Tolerant FPGAs and GRLIB

Accelerating Space Development with Low Power, Radiation-Tolerant FPGAs and GRLIB
Posted 06/09/2022 by Guest blog: Adam Taylor CEng FIET Embedded Systems Consultant

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The importance and adoption of FPGA technologies are growing exponentially in space applications thanks to their on-orbit reconfigurability, responsiveness, and flexibility. This is especially true for the latest space application development aimed at Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Operators in LEO typically deploy fleets of satellites to perform applications from ship and asset tracking to weather, environment, and ecosystem monitoring. However, developing applications for space brings challenges such as single event effects, ionising radiation, power dissipation, and thermal management.

Earlier this year, Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES) and Lattice announced a collaboration whereby CAES will qualify and sell radiation-tolerant Lattice FPGAs for space and satellite applications to enable developers to leverage the various benefits of Lattice FPGAs to address these challenges.

Image: CAES website product page
Image: CAES website product page

Based on the low power Lattice Nexus™ platform, the Certus™-NX-RT and CertusPro™-NX-RT FPGAs offer significantly reduced single event effect rates and reduced power thanks to architectural innovations from Lattice, paired with a 28nm Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator (FD-SOI) manufacturing process technology. The development environment utilizes the Lattice Radiant® design tool, which is designed to enhance productivity with increased support for IP integration, alongside advanced synthesis to support high reliability, high performance solutions.

With the collaboration, CAES also published a port of its GRLIB development environment and a library of configurable, standardized soft IP design cores to further support customer needs as they integrate these FPGAs into their designs.

Access to Expertise in Radiation Effects and Fault Tolerant Design

Certus™-NX-RT and CertusPro™-NX-RT radiation tolerant FPGAs provide developers with access to expertise in radiation effects and fault tolerant design, with detailed radiation reports and radiation lot acceptance testing.

To support the creation of SoC solutions that leverage these processors, the CAES team created the GRLIB IP Library around an integrated set of common, reusable IP cores. These processors include the SPARC-based LEON3, LEON4, and LEON5, along with the RISC-V based Noel-V.

Image: CAES website product page
Image: CAES website product page

GRLIB also provides developers with a range of peripherals including high-speed memory interfaces to support high performance memories from SRAM to SDRAM and DDR2. System integration peripherals (i.e., memory management units, timers, floating point units, watchdogs) and multipliers to communications peripherals will enable integration with the wider system including USB Host, Ethernet, SpaceWire, 1553, CAN, I2C, SPI, and UART.

IP within GRLIB leverages the AMBA bus protocol, to connect the processor cores with the wide range of peripherals provided. The use of AMBA interfaces, which is a well-used industry standard, enable developers to integrate custom peripherals or third-party IP quickly and easily with the selected SoC processor core.

GRLIB is available for download in several GPL licensed versions without charge and its additional features and platform compatibilities are contained within licensed versions. For more information, download the GRLIB IP Library User's Manual.

Develop From Day One

Many features from the GPL download can be used to perform initial feasibility / proof of concept development, which increases the technology readiness level (TRL).

Once the TRL increases from level 4 (which indicates demonstrating the design in a lab environment) to level 5 demonstrating the design in the relevant environment, GRLIB can be licensed. GRLIB is available for licensing in one of several models to include the Fault Tolerant solutions in the most appropriate licensing model for the development.

To support developers in the tool flow, debugging, and initial application software development, GRLIB will also provide several ready-to-go bitstreams for the specific Lattice development boards.


Support for Lattice devices within the GRLIB is now available, enabling space developers to hit the ground running as they leverage the capabilities provided by Certus™-NX-RT and CertusPro™-NX-RT devices for space and satellite applications.

Learn how you can outpace market expectations with Lattice solutions by reaching out to us today!