“That is motivation enough for our program to advance a new field programmable gate array computer chip to meet the increasing demand of new technology,” he noted.
Invented in the commercial sector in the mid-1980s, the field programmable gate array computer chip differs from a standard microprocessor, which serves a specific purpose such as image compression or video streaming, because the same device can be reprogrammed to perform multiple functions.
Transformation of the chip, however, comes with an initial, upfront price tag of between $10 and $20 million, with successive manufactured copies costing considerably less at a few cents apiece.
Nevertheless, for its first Field Programmable Gate Array program venture with NASA in 1996, funded by the Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories, the program contracted with Actel Corp., Mountain View, Calif., to deliver a product, modified for radiation hardening, for the historic, premier mission to the red planet.
Following that success, the technology transferred to the private sector, and since then, over 250,000 of the miniature microprocessors have been produced.
“The field programmable gate array computer chip provided for NASA in 1996 featured an 8,000 logic gate capacity,” said Gordon.