The CPU of the PlayStation has gone beyond Pluto

The CPU of the PlayStation has gone beyond Pluto

It's no secret that our smartphone is more powerful computers used to do to land astronauts on the moon. Perhaps less well known is that the New Horizons space probe designed by NASA to explore Pluto if the aboard a processor like the one that was installed on the first Sony PlayStation.

After a journey of almost three billion miles, NASA probe New Horizons, he reached Pluto, It was far away 14 July 2015, Now now it lies in Kuiper Belt

New Horizons has elapsed more than two-thirds of the flight into hibernation, periodically he wakes up to check that it was still able to function.

We are talking about the MIPS R3000, a chip that was introduced in the late 80. In particular on the probe are present four processors MIPS R3000 The use of older technologies is a constant within the space, it is preferable to use stable products, of proven functionality and which they have exceeded the long and demanding certification that attest to its resistance to outside the Earth's atmosphere conditions. What we in fact need is not power, but reliability.

New Horizons has seven instruments on board: two spectrometers, infrared and ultraviolet, two spectrometers particles, a small color camera and a high resolution telescope, in addition to a space-dust detector. It has provided a solid-state memory 8 GB for data recording.

The CPU of New Horizons compared to that of the PlayStation was obviously optimized to better survive the bombing of space radiation, but technologically speaking it is the same old chip. Amazing that this chip is coming on the edge of the Solar System, while our PlayStation are crammed into cramped attics, forced to accumulate powder on powder. Other than cosmic dust!

Looking at the pictures and satellite designs two things immediately jump to the eye, there are solar panels and there is a conspicuous black tube on one side. Assuming that this was the telescope that are provided, there was still a fundamental question, What with the four processors and tools are powered? In addition, the large antenna where he finds the energy to transmit the measurements made?

After extensive research network has solved the mystery, Here explain everything

For those who do not want to waste time here is a short summary:

To power its systems, New Horizons uses a radioisotope thermoelectric generator .The plutonium granules generate heat from the atomic decay, this heat is converted into electricity. At the beginning of the mission the RTG produced 4500 Heat W, which was converted into 290 W of electricity. During the meeting of Pluto, that. 200 W were available (because of the decay of plutonium and the deterioration of thermocouples).

Most of the heat RTG seems to be radiated through the radiator panels outside the RTG. Part of the heat is conducted through the frame of the spacecraft towards the propellant tank to prevent freezing. The spacecraft is well insulated. When the electronic board absorbs more than 150 W, the heat they produce is sufficient to maintain the spacecraft to its operating temperature (gives +10 a +30 ° C). When the spacecraft is in hibernation, They are used electric heaters.
NH contains a series of blades which can be opened to radiate the heat in excess, these were designed to be used mainly during the initial phases of flight (closer to the Sun).

Electric energy

Because of the great distances from the sun, New Horizons will not operate operate solar energy. Pluto's elliptical orbit of the sun's energy varies from 0,0012 a 0,0004 times that we on Earth.

Instead of trying to collect the small amount of available sunlight, New Horizons uses a radioisotope thermal generator (RTG). In particular, a heat source for generic use – radioisotope thermoelectric generator (GPHS-RTG) produced by Division General ElectricSpace (now part of Lockheed Martin).

The GPHS-RTG transported from New Horizons is actually a spare part Cassini . It provided about 250W at launch and the plutonium decay decreases the output power of approximately 5% every four years, which means that now the RTG should provide about power 200W.

This chart shows the position of the RTG New Horizons.

For further reading on the fuel systems of New Horizons see The PlutoNew Horizons RTG e Power System Early Mission Performance , Geffrey K. Ottman e Christopher B. Hersman.(source of the graph above)

While I was there I went to snoop on other sources, and I came across public material NASA.

NASA engineers are creating chips that can withstand extreme temperatures and pressures not present on Earth. The harsh environment of Venus brings electronics to its hardest test. Electronic components evolving allow us to explore some of the most inhospitable places, from the edge of the space to the deepest oceans. However, the surface of Venus appears to be one of the most difficult places, there are only a handful of images from this harsh environment. To change this, NASA has developed chips that can survive a bit 'longer – planetary exploration, every second counts!

Space, last frontier was the slogan of a television series. There travels l’IC 8086 another very dated processor but chosen for its qualities of reliability. His daring mission to Venus would not last more than five minutes thanks unpredictable environment. Although it is farther from the sun than Mercury, Venus is the hottest planet with a daytime temperature 462 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere is dense carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid with an atmospheric pressure of 92 bar on the surface (92 times that of the earth). In fact, the air pressure is so massive that it is the equivalent of being at a depth of 1 km in the ocean (that would crush a human being instantly when exposed).

A name Sapas Mons volcano dominates this view generated from the surface of Venus computer

The modern components can not survive on the surface of Venus also using industrial standar they withstand temperatures from -40 ° C a 125 ° C. The surface of Venus is usually over 400 ° C and is even known that reaches 500 ° C, which would destroy any circuit in a short time.

Believe it or not, a Soviet Union team did just that during the Cold War with their Venus mission It included the landing of different probes on the surface. the probe, themselves, They did not survive for more than an hour after landing, but they were able to send back images of the surface revealing balls of lava and rocks.

Una delle poche foto della superficie di Venere. Immagine di pubblico dominio, accessibile tramite UCL Mathematics and Physical Sciences Flickr

Per superare le sfide che presenta Venere, la NASA ha creato circuiti integrati per semiconduttori in grado di sopravvivere alle temperature di Venere fino a 500 ore.

The NASA team has tested two of these long-term integrated circuits at temperatures of 480 ° C (originally designed for jet engines) per 521 hours without failure. The test was designed after the same research team has developed integrated circuits 4-SiC JFET with ceramic packaging that have remained in operation for over 41,7 days 500 ° C. However, this first test was conducted in the Earth's atmosphere. In a chamber that simulates the atmosphere of Venus with the same semiconductor but, (new chips to have a real basis for comparison), The feature-time decreased by about half; however, this time remains a very productive window.

Come bonus, these chips in the missions to Venus not only have the advantage of surviving for longer periods, but also to reduce the overall weight of the probe. The Soviet Union as he landed probes on the surface of Venus? This was possible only because the probe had many containment systems of pressure and a lot of cooling systems just to keep the electronics running as long as possible, thus increasing significantly the weight of the entire device. A probe that is less affected by the heat will not need such a temperature management (or at least not as much as the previous probes).

Con questo chiudo questa carrellata spaziale.


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