around volatile memory; the power in a spacecraft could be cycled on and off, but the data will still be there,” he emphasized.
“And we’re also making sure that the chip will retain information across the huge temperature ranges experienced by satellites,”
Hunt further highlighted.
As a joint venture, the C-RAM part has been designed and developed by BAE Systems, Manassas, Va., and Ovonyx, Inc., Santa Clara, Calif. Funding has been provided by Air Force Research Laboratory and its Defense Department partners.
The reprogrammable technology involves a rather surprising procedure, in which nanoscale amounts of the chalcogenide material are melted to more than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooled as either a glass or crystal, the memory bit stores data as a difference in resistivity.
In 2003, following a rapid material integration phase, the program constructed an array of 64,000 C-RAM memory bits, which demonstrated no cross heating of adjacent cells during operation, as well as verified radiation hardness.
The success of that experiment was followed by the development and prototyping of a four million bit chip. Product qualification of that design will continue until the end of 2007, and at that time, project personnel expect the C-RAM hardware to be ready for insertion in nearly every future satellite system.
“It has taken us a short six years to get to the point of design, development, and demonstration of the C-RAM chip.” Hunt said. “C-RAM’s ultimate impact will be improved data storage capability and increased onboard processing performance, which significantly contributes to efficient spacecraft operations and, ultimately, enhanced support to the warfighter.”