Powering the latest trends of space electronics – with Texas Instruments


Episode 49 is a conversation with Adrian Helwig, Analog Field Application Engineer, and Michael Seidl, Systems Engineer from Texas Instruments (TI), about the trends in space electronics.


Episode show notes

Texas Instruments is a global semiconductor manufacturing company with expertise in analog and embedded processing chips. The company was founded in 1930 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas. In this episode, we discuss:

  • While power is a very precious good in space satellite applications continue to become even more power-hungry in the future:
    • More intelligence/processing power for telecom and data routing applications
    • AI for pre-processing on-board on optical and radar imaging payload to reduce data rates even though resolution goes up  
    • Electrically steered antennas replace classic mechanical antenna pointing system, RF to bits (RF sampling)
    • Small satellites’ autonomous maneuvering for debris avoidance, etc.
  • Designers must increase total power capabilities / power density and bring efficiency up
  • Efficiency is very important as any improvement will bring a double benefit: power that is no longer wasted does not have to be produced anymore. Reduced power losses save efforts in cooling. With higher efficiency, there is also greater power density possible. TI’s products enable such higher power density to also enable savings in the board area
  • The high quality of the voltage rails is increasingly challenging to meet: e.g. Only 0.8V core voltages with tens of Amperes but +/-3% tolerance leaves only mV intolerance; Power distribution network requires a high amount of capacitance which adds cost and board area. highly precise instruments and very high-throughput communication systems require super-low noise levels on the supply voltage
  • The power tree is fundamentally important for the overall robustness and availability of the satellite. TI provides a high level of radiation hardness (especially against heavy ion impacts which are challenging for power devices) combined with several protection solutions – integrated into the actual power devices but also as discrete functions to complement the actual power supply solution. Tight control of the voltage rails is very important to assure the reliability of the system. For e.g. a 10% transient applied to a downstream device can easily damage it or degrade its longevity. With -SEP and QMLP/QMLV the right level of cost & rad hardness. Fault Detection, Isolation & Recovery
  • Full portfolio and strong roadmap, including eFuses all to power density, protection, integration 
  • Strong design support capabilities; Stability analysis, pricing, and availability via web store; PMP designs; EVMs; TIDAs… All radiation reports, quality data, materials, etc. are available online.

Links and resources mentioned in the podcast

The space portfolio of Texas Instruments

The Texas instruments TIDA-070002 is a reference design suitable for command and data handling, Radar imaging payload, and electrical power system applications. An isolated feedback flyback with overcurrent flags and current sensing are created by this reference design using LM139AQML-SP quadcomparator, INA901-SP radiation hardened current monitor and UC1901-SP.

The Texas Instruments TIDA-070001 is a reference design demonstrating how to implement redundancy at the input of a Point-of-Load (POL) supply with two TPS7H2201-SP radiation hardened eFuse load switches featuring an adjustable over-voltage protection (OVP). A primary and redundant voltage is supplied to the rad harderend POL step-down converter TPS50601A-SP using two load switches.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H4001QEVM-CVAL is an evaluation module (EVM) demonstrating the usage of TPS7H4001-SP to support typical ASIC and FPGA applications. In this module, A regulated power rail capable of load current up to 72 A are provided using Four TPS7H4001-SP buck converters, configured in master/slave mode.

The Texas intruments ALPHA-XILINX-KU060-SPACE is a development kit for the Xilinx® XQRKU060 FPGA with industrial -1 speed grade. With a modular board design, ADA-SDEV-KIT2 has two FMC connectors, system monitoring, DDR3 DRAM, space-grade TI power management and temperature-sensing solutions and a XRTC-compatible configuration module.

The Texas Instruments TPS73801-SEP is a low-dropout (LDO) regulator designed to offer a fast transient response. It has a dropout voltage of 300 mV and can supply 1A of output current. The device's closely-controlled quiescent current is 1 mA, which drops to less than 1 µA in shutdown, and it has been designed to produce very low output noise.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H4010-SEP is a synchronous step-down DC/DC converter capable of driving a load current of up to 6A from a supply voltage that can range from 3.5 to 32 V. The converter is designed for ease-of-use and to provide a high level of efficiency and output accuracy in a small size. It has a pinout designed for a simple PCB layout that includes optimal thermal and EMI performance.

The Texas Instruments TL7700-SEP is a bipolar integrated circuit designed to be used as a reset controller in microprocessor and microcomputer systems. It features a highly stable circuit function with a 1.8-40 V supply voltage and a SENSE voltage that can be set to any value greater than 0.5 V using 2 external resistors.

The Texas Instruments TL1431 is a precision programmable reference suitable for aerospace, industrial, auto, telecom, and computing. TL1431 features the fundamental analog building, an accurate voltage reference and op amp with specified thermal stability over commercial, automotive and military temperature ranges.

The Texas Instruments LM185-1.2QML-SP is a micropower 2-terminal band-gap voltage regulator diodes that is space-graded, ceramic packaged and radiation-tolerant. The component features a low dynamic impedance, tolerant of capacitive loading and a good temperature stability. Low noise and long term stability is ensured by design due to the use of transistors and resistors.

The Texas Instruments TPS7A4501-SP is a low-dropout (LDO) regulator for space-grade subsystems such as FPGA, data converters and analog circuitry. The radiation hardened regulator is optimized for fast-transient response and is designed to have very-low output noise making it suitable for RF supply applications.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H1101A-SP is a LDO linear regulator suitable in power supply for RF, VCOs, receivers, and amplifiers. The regulator is suitable for satellite point of load supply for FPGAs, microcontrollers, ASICs, and data converters. The thermal protection, current limit and current foldback features of the regulator make it suitable for space environment.

The Texas Instrument TPS7H2201-SP is a single channel load switch radiation hardened and suitable for space satellite power management and distribution. With a programmable slew rate, configurable rise time is provided by the component to minimize the reverse current protection and inrush current. The integrated thermal pad with the ceramic package of the component allows high power dissipation.

The Texas Instruments LM4050QML-SP is a space-graded precision voltage reference suitable for data acquisition systems, instrumentation, process control and energy management. LM4050QML-SP is packaged in a 10-Lead Ceramic CLGA and is designed to operate without the need for an external stabilizing capacitor. LM4050QML-SP is also designed to ensure stability with a capacitive load.

The Texas Instruments LM136A-2.5QML-SP is a precision 2.5V shunt regulator diode radiation-hardened, suitable for military and space applications. The third terminal on the regulator is designed to enable trimming of reference temperature and voltage easily. The regulator can be used for power supplies, op amp circuitry or digital voltmeters as a precision 2.5V low voltage reference.

The Texas Instruments UC1843B-SP is a Current Mode PWM Controller suitable for communication, optical and RADAR imaging payload applications. The component is radiation hardened and features pulse-by-pulse current limiting, trimmed oscillator discharge current, low start-up current and an internally-trimmed bandgap reference.

The Texas Instruments UC1825B-SP Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) control device is optimized for high-frequency, switched mode power supply applications. In particular, the controller has been designed to minimize propagation delays through logic circuitry and the use of comparators, while maximizing both the slew rate of the error amplifier and the operating bandwidth.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H3301-SP is a sink and source double data rate (DDR) termination regulator designed for space applications with built-in VTTREF buffer. The component is specifically designed to be a compact, low-noise solution for applications with space and weight limitations. The space DDR termination applications include solid state recorders, single board computers, and payload processing.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H4002-SP is a synchronous step down converter suitable for space satellite point of load supply for FPGAs, microcontrollers, data converters, and ASICs. The product is offered in a thermally enhanced 20-pin ceramic, dual in-line flatpack package and is integrated with high-side and low-side MOSFETs.

The Texas Instruments TPS50601-SP is a step-down converter suitable for Space Satellite Point of Load Supply for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, and ASICs. The product is radiation hardened, space-graded and is tested for on-orbit Single Event Effects (SEE) event rates in LEO and GEO using Cosmic Ray Effects on Micro-Electronics 96 (CREME96). Engineering Evaluation (/EM) Samples are available.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H4001-SP is a synchronous buck converter suitable for satellite point of load supply, communications and optical imaging payload. The converter is radiation hardened available in a thermally enhanced ceramic flatpack package with integrated low-resistance high-side and low-side MOSFETs. Current mode control helps achieve high efficiency and reduced component count.

The Texas Instruments TPS50601A-SP is a step-down converter suitable for Space Satellite Point of Load Supply for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, data converters and ASICs. The product is radiation hardened, space-graded and is tested for on-orbit Single Event Effects (SEE) event rates in LEO and GEO using Cosmic Ray Effects on Micro-Electronics 96 (CREME96).

The Texas Instruments LM137QML-SP is a 3-terminal negative voltage regulators suitable for harsh environments, precision current regulation, on-card regulation and programmable voltage regulation. The regulators require only 1 output capacitor for frequency compensation and 2 external resistors to set the output voltage. LM137 are complementary to the LM117 adjustable positive regulators.

The Texas Instruments LM117QML-SP is a 3-terminal, positive voltage linear regulator that can supply 0.5A or 1.5A over a 1.2-37V output range. The component is flight-proven, radiation-hardness-assured (RHA), and designed for simple operation, requiring only two external resistors to set the output voltage. The regulator is "floating" and sees only the input-to-output differential voltage.

The Texas Instruments LM117HVQML-SP is a 3-terminal positive voltage linear regulator radiation hardness assured, suitable for adjustable switching regulator, a programmable output regulator and precision current regulator. To set the output voltage, the regulator requires only two external resistors.

The Texas Instruments TPS7H5001-SP is a radiation-hardness-assured, current mode, dual-output Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controller for DC-DC converters in space applications. It is optimized for both gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon (Si) semiconductor systems, and features a high switching frequency combined with low current consumption and a small physical footprint.

The Texas Instruments LM2940QML-SP is a radiation-hardness-assured (RHA) positive voltage regulator that can source 1A of output current, with a dropout voltage typically of 0.5V and a maximum of 1V, across the operating temperature range. To reduce ground current when the differential between the input and output voltage exceeds 3V (approx.), the component includes a quiescent current reduction circuit.

The Texas Instruments LM2941QML-SP is a positive voltage regulator qualified for use in military, defence and space-based applications. The regulator is originally designed for vehicular applications and the circuitry are protected from two-battery jumps or reverse battery installations.

Episode transcript

Please note that while we have endeavoured to produce a transcript that matches the audio as closely as possible, there may be slight differences in the text below. If you would like anything in this transcript clarified, or have any other questions or comments, please contact us today.

Hywel:  Hello everybody. I’m your host Hywel Curtis. And I’d like to welcome you to the Space Industry by satsearch, where we share stories about the companies taking us into orbit. In this podcast, we delve into the opinions and expertise of the people behind the commercial space organizations of today who could become the household names of tomorrow. 

Before we get started with the episode, remember, you can find out more information about the suppliers, products, and innovations that are mentioned in this discussion on the global marketplace for space at satsearch.com.

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s episode of the Space Industry Podcast. I’m joined today by Adrian and Michael, who’ve actually been on the podcast before from Texas Instruments.

Texas Instruments, a company that’s, as I mentioned, I think when they were on the podcast previously, this is probably a company that you’ve heard of and Texas Instruments or TI is making some really interesting inroads into the space industry and working on missions in a lot of different aspects through providing advice supports and, but primarily on, in the electronic space.

So today we’re gonna talk a little bit about some of the trends that TI has seen and that Michael and Adrian in the power of space electronics and obviously power vital aspect of any system, any circuit without the power, it’s not gonna, nothing’s gonna work. So it’ll be really interesting but obviously the space environment places some unique restrictions and challenges on how the electronics can be powered efficiently without manual intervention, obviously because of being in orbit.

And yeah, it’ll be really interesting to see what. What TI is observing in this area, what lessons can be given to engineers and how this can improve space missions moving forwards. So firstly, let me welcome you both to the podcast, Adrian and Michael, great to have you here. 

Adrian: Yeah, hello. Great to be here again.

Michael: Thanks for having us. 

Hywel: Fantastic. So let’s get into this topic today. Now, considering the enormous and growing use of electronics in space, I wondered if one of you guys could give a brief introduction to electronics, power architectures in space. What our engineers need to be thinking about in this area when designing missions.

Michael: Yes. Let’s take a quick look at the full power ecosystem and a satellite from the power generation to the storage, to the power distribution to the actual point of load. So when you look at the power generation, that’s typically done with the solar panel. We’re looking at voltages over hundreds to 200 volts being generated there, and that needs to be then converted down to the actual battery voltage or battery charge voltage depending on the state of the battery we’re looking then at maybe 24 volt to 70 volt. Then when you look at the actual distribution of the power what we see is typically is used a 28 volt plus there, and that 28 volt shall be really stable and shall be independent of the battery voltage.

So you need to then, Boosted up or use a buck to bring it down so you’re having a buck boost apology for that 28 volt generation. These, this voltage rail is being submitted to all the different modules and submodules in the satellite. And at those submodules, you then typically generate the voltages you need there, like twelvefold, fivefold in some cases also negative twelvefold, negative, fivefold negative one.

All these voltage rails are then generated typically in a isolated way, having an isolated power supply there. For the purpose that if something goes wrong in this module, you don’t want to have any fault propagate back to the satellite and eventually bring the entire satellite down. So if there’s a fault, you want to isolate it there and keep it also there.

And then the last step is then really generating the voltage rails needed for the individual devices and subsystems are, like for an fpga, you have the 1.8 volts there, this 1.2 volt sometimes, or even down to 0.8 volts. So these are then what we call them, the point of load. So all these are, I’d say, typical values and also how I described this is very typical. There’s no standard as of today, but this is coming, right? We will more and more standardize on these.

Adrian: Let me also, that’s a good introduction, Michael. Let me also add some challenges we see in this area also, because if you think about power generation complete system is very expensive, right?

So you have huge solar panels, you have all the unfolding mechanism, so a lot of weight and size involved. And in addition, what Michael also mentioned if your system is working on the dark side of the earth, you need to think about batteries, right? Which again adds weight and cost to your system.

And also one thing you need to keep in mind is there is no airflow there, right? So you cannot use a fan to cool down your system in space, right? So all the heat must be radiated away. Which again? Adds significant costs and design effort to, to your cooling system. And last but not least, you are also working in a harsh environment.

So you have high radiation levels which are dependent on the orbit. You are working. You have extreme temperature cycles, right? If you think about load a low flying satellite those satellites are passing several times per day. And orbit and passing from the cool side of the air to the hot side of earth. So a lot of temperature cycles involved and also mechanical stress. It’s something you need to consider, right? You have all the vibration during the launch of the satellites. So in general, a lot of challenges for designers when thinking about a space power system.

Hywel: Right. Brilliant. Thank you both for the overview. I think that’s a really good introduction. Yeah, very interesting to, to discuss the different voltage involved and the lack of standardization because you think we are talking about systems that are operating in space. The risk to, okay. The risk of space debris is always there, but the risk to adjacent. People is zero. And the risk to adjacent systems and everything nearby is absolutely minimal. And so we could potentially have enormous, huge voltages and currents, but obviously not because we need to test these things on the ground before launching. We need to launch them safely and effectively. And all of the equipment is built and developed on the ground. So it’s very interesting.

And also thanks Adrian for explaining some of those challenges. We think of space as being freezing cold, obviously. Still there is no airflow. So yeah, heat must be dissipated through radiation. There’s no possibility for convection. So despite the fact that 10 centimeters this way is freezing cold, you still need to remove that heat effectively. And I think both of those things, Are examples of some of the challenges that players in the new space market need to face?

Companies that maybe don’t have this long heritage of legacy space missions and experience. So power management is and also in the new space market, sorry, we’re typically seeing products and services that are being produced in a lower cost, possibly a smaller form factor, although maybe that’s changing some areas, but, And and on a more rapid timescale as well.

So I wondered whether you could touch on some of the reasons why power management is probably more important in the new space market or at least is very crucial in the new space market. 

Michael: So when we talk new space I think first we need to probably say what do we really understand on a new space?

The way we look at it, it’s mainly about private investments. And that means you have a business model that really has to provide a positive return. And so our customers have to balance the risk versus the cost. And many times it’s more a compromise than a balancing. And then people do also look into our devices, like we call them commercial off the shelf.

So they’re not really made for space at all. But still in the absence of a radiation hardened solution or a cost effective alternative, there’s simply no way than using one of those devices so many times. That’s true for the high performance processes or FPGAs. So the power tree here plays a very pivotal role as the one thing, it’s cost by itself. So the Power Tree itself is a major cost border, it’s complex. It’s there for every of the modules and subsystems and. Not less complex than for any large satellites or any traditional mission. You have to provide the full functionality. There is no, no way to compromise there. Then the. Protection of the devices downstream, right? So as you said, it’s like maybe we need to compromise a little bit on the radiation hardness of the devices downstream on the bus. They might be more exposed to a situation, and this is where the power is your last safety net, your last resort to catch that quickly and you identify this increase of current quickly and turn off this power as fast as you can to rescue those devices, if you will. And then to make things even harder is your power devices are the ones that really carry the current. So when transistors that carry a heavy amount of curry are even more exposed and more at risk to have a gate rupture under any heavy radiation.

So this is where we really see that these devices typically really have to be built up, ground up, designed, ground up to withstand. So you see that the high dependency on the power tree. And the poetry itself being even more at risk and the cost associated with it are really, makes it a very pivotal role.

Adrian: And also to, to mention It’s also very important to, to think about the power density, right? And there are several factors involved in that. Obviously the efficiency of your system, right? Because if your system is efficient, you save twice, right? So if you think about this you need to produce less energy and at the same time you have less energy to cool, right?

So you can save costs there. So the meaning of power density is really taking advantage of your efficient system and then sizing down the complete solution. So if you think about this, if you’re switching at higher frequency, you can, for example, use smaller passive components in your system. So the complete solution size is shrinking, right?

And we are focusing at TI, on bringing those things to the next level, really. So not only focusing on increasing the efficiency, but really thinking about the complete system and how to increase the power density of the total system. 

Hywel: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I think that’s a really important message.

Thank you. That the higher the efficiency, the, that you can make double savings because yeah, less energy is required to be produced and less, and then you have to cool it. So that’s great. Thank you. So when we’re talking about space systems like this, you and Michael, you mentioned that the complexity for a smaller system is in some ways no less than that for a larger vehicle cause you still need all the different requirements.

But there are lots of different ways I’m assuming, to optimize the electronics architecture, the electronic power system. I wonder if you could touch on some of the most important factors that engineers need to consider when doing this optimization when trying to achieve these performance levels.

Adrian: Yeah that’s really good question. And there are several factors here, and yeah, one of them obviously is your mission profile, right? So radiation hardness level you need to work with. And there are two factors important single event effects. Those are dependent on orbit.

But also the total ionizing dose, which is also somehow dependent on your orbit. But because those effects are more cumulative effects, it’s more important to look at the duration of your mission here. Another factor is, for example, the temperature profile, right? I was already describing it a little bit.

If you compare LEO satellite to geo satellite, obviously the LEO satellite is much worse because you are passing several times a day from hot zone to the cool zone. And also the material set used in those components is more important, right? Because you need to consider those temperature cycles there.

So the designers optimizing power electronics have several options to choose. And the obvious one, and the most famous one, let’s say, is the QMLV product. So the highest robustness available on the market with highest radiation performance, but at the same time, very expensive and big in size because those components traditionally use ceramic packages, which are bigger than plastic packages.

And if you look at the other extreme designers can also use commercial components in your systems, right? Because that’s also possible. But in general, this is not a good idea. And  Michael was already mentioning  a little bit. You do not have all the test programs in place for those commercial components, so you cannot make sure they are really withstanding all those radiation requirements.

Also, Those components, and we see it especially for space power, are not performing very well. And this is because the main part of your power product is the transistor. And this is very sensitive to radiation. And that was also the reason for TI why we decided to have a dedicated product line for space power because we really need to put design techniques in place to make sure those components are really performing well under radiation.

And also what I was mentioning, the material set used in commercial components is not really made for space. So that’s also very important to consider. So there is also a solution in between. We have in our portfolio products, space enhanced products. So those are plastic components. With radiation performance.

So we typically characterize them up to 30 kilowatt and 43 ev. This is something which designer can decide to use. And it’s a very good compromise. If you look at the cost versus risk of. And you have all the radiation data available on ti.com and you can be sure that the materials set used in those components is really made for space.

Hywel: Brilliant. That, yeah, that makes a lot of sense to target that, compromise as you mentioned, that between the cost and the risk of failure, I think particularly for as we’re seeing new space companies and missions maturing into commercial services. The reliability and consistency and lack of risk are so important for these companies as they’re professionalizing.

And so ensuring that there’s a product set, a com, a component set that can meet those needs is very important. And the difficulty with testing anything for space and in space, obviously does and should limit some of these components. And when you’re talking about, we talk about it at obviously a payload level or an entire satellite level, but at the component level there’s a myriad of variations on each of those components, each of the configurations that all really need to be tested. So approaching it from the materials level as well is Yeah, it’s very important I think. And actually following on from that, when we talk about these companies professionalizing their services and their systems, there’s a bit of a movement in the way that some companies are communicating, where we are discussing less about the hardware on board and more about the results that can be achieved particularly from in the, LEO and MEO satellites, it’s more about the service that you can provide. And a key part it’s the similar sort of analogy to nobody cares that much anymore about the hardware in their computer. They wanna run the software on it when they’re communicating to their end users.

Because of that, we’ve seen a big increase in onboard processing systems and more complex software programs that are being run on satellites. But in order to build them in the first place, they need the right power architecture and control architecture. So what do, what are these uses of more powerful software?

What do they mean for how for power supply? What are they. Is this different from pure F P G A applications? Are you seeing more requirements and challenges by your customers in this area?

Michael: Yeah. Fully agree with you first of all, that the onboard processing capabilities will greatly increase in the future and have increased already.

There’s no doubt on that one. But maybe before we really look in the actual tree let’s look into what is driving this really. And maybe if you look at the example of a communications payloads, like we have them in these LEO constellations one thing you’re really looking up there is just there is no more need for intelligence and processing capabilities in there as these satellites are meanwhile not pure transponders anymore.

They are really like bay stations in the sky. They’re doing routing off the traffic through various channels on it. Then you have the antenna technology has greatly moved further. In the past, you had these classic mechanical antenna pointing systems where today you are using phase array antennas and you use the technology of beam forming and have done electrically steered antennas. That requires a lot of processing in the background to make that really happen. And you have here another driver On top of it, right? Staying in the RF front. And there is meanwhile the data converters have increased and speed significantly, right? We’re really sampling at multiples of gigahertz and that generates an enormous amount of data.

All that data, of course, has to be processed. It’s a good thing because now we can skip the intermediate frequencies and we make the system even more. More compact. We call this RF sampling, but now we need to deal with this enormous amount of data and that needs of course, decimation and filtering capacities and more and more processing needs on that end.

Then the keywords and buzzword of artificial intelligence, right? So when we look at our communication system, we are look taking advantage of our machine learning and artificial intelligence that we understand what are the best routing opportunities, what’s typically the best decision making here to optimize the network loads overall and yeah.

The topic of artificial intelligence is not only going here into the communication payload, but also look at applications like radar imaging are or optical imaging payloads. Also here, the resolution’s getting better and more and more data is being generated. But you need to be now smart in compressing this data and selecting the data, pre-processing the data before sending it to Earth as the bandwidth to earth.

That’s really what’s. Really expensive. And another angle that drives processing to For example is the topic of space debris. So these, our space vehicles need to be intelligent now in detecting any space debris out there, and then make the right maneuver autonomously and avoid any collusions that way.

So all this drives the computational power. In terms of hardware, that means for us, our F PGAs getting bigger and we see already that the FPGAs integrate meanwhile multiple course, right? That is where we see, of course, the software aspect getting more important. In the end of the day, as a designer, yes, you wish you’d just do the software, but from a hardware perspective we have to make it work first, and that is where these extreme large FPGAs, of course, come with their own challenges.

Adrian: And, actually what Michael just mentioned, everything means for power, even more power in the future, right? Because especially if you think about those new great space, grade FPGAs those require very high current. And at the same time at very low voltages, right? So the core voltage, typical 0.8 volt and 10 of amps, even up to a hundred of amps, right?

And at the same time, the tolerance for this core voltage is around plus minus 3% which leaves certainly a millivolts in intolerance. So efficiency and power density. It’s very important for those high current requirements and to serve those markets. Actually with power solutions, you need to think about products with very high current capabilities and high radiation robustness, obviously, but also at the same time you need to have a solution with very good step response performance because we see current load steps at those FPGAs up to 30 amps. So your system need to act very fast. And the voltage, as mentioned, is very low, 0.8 volt. And also the power density of the whole system. So you need to really look at those markets to have a ready solution to fulfill those require.

Hywel: That’s really interesting. Thank you. Thank, thanks both of you. That I think there’s a lot we can take away from there. As you touched on all the new technologies that can potentially be used in this generation of satellites, Yeah it’s amazing what can be done, but what requires to be powered effectively and in a controlled manner.

You think just taking the space situational awareness, the space debris. Angle. If you’re mandating, which is coming or is it already in some place? Different ways. If we’re mandating that satellites must be able to maneuver out of the way of an encroaching system, you need the power to be able to sense the system to act, to maneuver, fire the propulsion or whatever it is, to stop the maneuver, to get back to the orbit you require to deorbit to the end of life.

All, none of this stuff is revenue-generating activity for the service for the company. They wanna get back to, they wanna stay in their orbit and produce the data that their customers are looking for. Okay. If you crash, you lose revenue. But all of this stuff needs power. And as you mentioned, low step response for those loads. These are systems that can be switched on and off, deploy the antenna, deploy the solar panel, deploy the cameras even. So it’s the power I can see that the power. Constructing the power architecture is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge and is requiring companies like TI to solve these problems for your customers.

I’m assuming, and develop the components and the materials, which you mentioned as well, very important in order to solve these issues. Yeah, I guess on that, I wondered if you could discuss a little bit more about the efforts that Texas Instruments is taking to meet these challenges that the new space industry is presenting to you.

Michael: Yeah, there’s multiple anals. We’re supporting our customers here. So we do this with a product offer where we really support our scalable system with our having all voltage and current levels required, the current levels up to the 18 amps of a single component, you can parallel it and then come up to the more than a hundred amps in some cases might be required.

We talked about before, we have these extreme precision requirements and capabilities provided as the 0.8 volt, only 3% tolerant allowed at high A levels. But also when we look into RF systems, we need to have them at extreme low noise levels. So we really make sure that. Power tree itself is as quiet as possible.

Then we have several protection features we put in there, like for over current, over voltage, under voltage lockout, over temperature protection. And we make them also somewhat self contained if needed with their auto retry capabilities. That if something happens or something’s not right, still you have a good way to recover from there.

And then we’ve seen different missions have different radiation hardness and quality requirements, or even sometimes very strict cost requirements. And therefore we have our several classes here in our quality portfolio, the QMLVRHA. So really the traditional devices in the ceramic package targeting maybe more the tier stationary orbits or deep space missions or human space missions. Radiation hardness, a hundred K Reds 75 mv. Then we talked about the space enhanced products or space enhanced plastic products in the plastic package, radiation tolerance, we call it. Then to 30 K reds 43 mev. So where we really strike the balance between cost and quality for new space. And then there’s something new called QMLP.

QMLP is a. Radiation hard standard like or the qml V R H A, but as the name says, the PSR plastic, it allows for plastic packages. And that is very interesting because now I can really have a pin compatible QMLV, full radiation hardened device being/pin compatible to the space enhanced Product and plastic device that comes at much lower cost.

So that is something that our customers will appreciate very much as it enables a single investment into your platform and then adopted quickly and easily to multiple missions as they come their way. The QMLP is actually something that TI was very active in helping standardizing it. It was ratified only last year in November.

And we will bring out the first QMLP devices very shortly and even more coming still this year. So there’s I think it’s something that will make us all in the industry very happy that we have the standard now available. Yeah. So it’s also plastic packages overall, right? They make it much easier for us to fan out new products as the packages are so similar to the industrial versions.

So it’s very easy then for us to look at a device, see if we can make it radiation hard, but it’s, especially for high-frequency devices we have the very same dimensions and mechanics and are Much quicker typically in getting the products out at the right performance level. 

Adrian: Yeah, I think Michael also the offering, offering really the enhanced functions in our products is also very essential here, especially for the power system.

So if you think about something like redundancy, right? In your satellite system, you have redundant systems, right? And those needs to be isolated from each other to avoid fault propagation. And for those functions we are offering digital insulators. So that’s one, one example here and in general, what you are already mentioning, the ability to detect a fault to isolate and also recovery afterwards is very important.

All the integrated functions we have in our power products like diagnostics, monitoring, protection functions, even simple enable pins are very important, but also the current limit pin. So as an example, you can take what I was already mentioning, our load switches, right? We call them also e-fuses.

So you can use those devices to switch on and off portion of your system or fully disconnect your system if needed. So those are also important factors. When when talking about NewSpace, right?

Michael: Yeah. I think overall how do we support our customers in this new space challenges, I think there’s several investments we, we keep making here on a continuous basis is one thing of course, very important efficiency and power density than the optimization of the performance or like in terms of the quality of the voltage rail, like our ripple transient, very much needed for the huge FPGAs, but also like our best noise.

For our F performance optimization. All this integration of features to really make sure this whole topic of FDIR call detection, isolation recovery is properly supported and best possible supported. And what we’re also active is in the support of standardization efforts and last, not least, availability.

So we. Are have huge investments in our manufacturing capacities. We make sure that all our high rail devices are available on our online store. Now even with all the inventory being visible to our customers, so they know if they click on buy, they will have the device very shortly on that table.

And then there is also a strong longevity commitment. We give we call this in our policy. No, no obsolescence out of convenience. And I, we know this is the extreme value for our customers that they know they can rely on these parts for long time. 

Hywel: Yeah, I think  that’s great. I think that’s very important in the space industry where we see mission timelines being so long for development and then launch and then things, missions get scrubbed, things get delayed by months and months at a time. It’s really important, I think, for those companies to know that if refactoring or rebuilding systems are required, that the components they relied on gonna be available. And also it’s great that you are taking a lead in standardization efforts because I think those are so critical particularly in the new space industry. But as the develop in the development of space as a whole, we see these standardization standards being developed on all different sorts of levels and scales. And I think the industry itself is still highly fragmented and very driven by national priorities in some ways, in some aspects of it.

Or now we’re seeing emerging kind of primary players with commercial priorities that are able to affect big waves of the industry. And standardization between players, it’s very important now. And I think following on from that, when we think about the new space industry, where these standards and where these performance levels are emerging, these sorts of companies, new space companies are often, or have often been inclined towards launching smaller satellites or microsatellites at least.

Do you think this factor can streamline innovation in power management systems in space? 

Michael: Yeah, I think absolutely. I think it’s important that we’re streamlining those things and the industry is already speaking about standardization. Maybe here as an example, the command and data handling here we see helping to make space V P X.

A sort of standard or developing something, installation or Ether is working as a group called Advanced Data Handling Architecture. And also here we’re talking about getting things more modular, more exchangeable. Make sure there is redundancy possible with these architectures, that it’s easy to switch from one to another.

And also the idea of sharing the computational power as we see in the computational processing capabilities going up and up, but you may not need all at the same time. So it makes a lot of sense if you can distribute and share those computational power from a hardware perspective.

In the end, it’s always the same objective, right? You want to get the cost out, you want to increase the volumes which in fact, drive for the economy of scales. And also what you want to do is make you want to share, there’s a good resource of any R&D efforts. So overall, this will reduce the investment from the R&D.

And when we talk standardization, that is of course what we like to hear from our semiconductor vendor perspective, right? This is what we really like, that makes it really easy for us to make the necessary investments, right? When we have a clearly defined power supply definition that enables us to really optimize for cost and performance in the right direction.

So we are following all these activities very closely and can’t wait until we really have these very clear parameter definitions in terms of the voltage level and current level and ripple and transient behavior. What are the right protection and features people really want to see there. And then in the end also assure that for this fault detection and reporting capabilities, we support the right recovery strategy in those systems.

And yeah, in the end, this is here in space. No different than it is already. The fact in other industries automotive for example, right? Where we have a very strong standardization and everybody benefits from it. 

Hywel: Yeah, absolutely. I think. Everybody understands that aspect of it as well, and this, it’s led to greater collaboration and innovation rather than, making print up any barriers in the way.

I think this is very important, so it’s great. Like I say that you are involved in this area and it’d be really interesting to, to obviously share more about TIs work and the work in general of companies involved in the standardization efforts across the industry. Something we will we’ll, we’re gonna look to do on this podcast.

Definitely. Thank you. And I guess, yeah, just finally just to bring this conversation, back to, to the core topic. Yeah. How I, I wondered if I could ask how TI is serving or planning to serve the, these emerging markets and opportunities in terms of the power control, power management, power architectures, and sort of plans what you are happy to share about the plans for rolling out new products for the space industry in the future? 

Adrian: Oh, yes. Yeah, there are really several new products coming and the number is actually growing each year. So if I only think about 2022, only to give you some examples.

I was already talking about the load switches, right? So we released in 2022 our space enhanced plastic version of the load switch, which is the TPS seven H 2221. If you look at the switching regulators, we released also in plastic package, our 18 amps point of load switching regulator, T P S seven, H 4,003.

If you then if you then look on the LDLs we actually released our first negative idea in plastic package which is the TPSs seven H 12. And finally, if we look at the P W M controller family, we actually released a complete new family of eight products for different topologies and in different mission profiles, only to give you two superset devices on the plastic package side on the space  product. We have the superset device, T PS seven H 5,005, and on the Q M L V side, which is the fully radiation hard net ceramic package device, we have the T P S seven, H 5,001. So those are P w M controllers with two megahertz switching frequency. So yeah those are only few examples, but there is more coming.

Hywel: Yeah, it’s quite a solid product launch cadence just for power in space, 

Michael: Yeah. We don’t stop there, right? This is of course, at the product level, but each of these products come with their own vm. Okay. And on top of it we also develop a lot of reference designs and actual use cases. We have our own reference design team called Power Designs Services, or short PDFs, so they have developed several designs already, and they’re. Available on com slash reference minus designs. And of course, there’s more and more coming out of that group that will help our customers to quickly get started on things. And we’re also working closely with several third parties and partners, like with STAR-Dundee we’re working with them to provide the power for their latest space fiber design.

For Teledyne, E two V, their latest DDR four memory where we provide the power and determination. And our, a very strong partner of ours is also Alpha Data. We have developed with them in the past a development tool for the FPGA, from si, the ku 60t provided here all the core supply and auxiliary supplies and sequencing on it.

And moving forward also with Alpha Data, we will bring out the design or the tool for the FPGA called Versa. The latest and greatest and highest processing FPGA for space Xylinx is bringing or has brought out there. So there again, we will provide the entire poetry for it and that of course, customers will then also be able to take advantage of when designing their own boards.

So overall, or just to sum this all up so TI supports this market with a wide portfolio and all kind of products. So all kind of quality classes focus on high robustness, reliability all the support for the fault detection, isolation and recovery. High powered entity and still a high quality of the realm is very important.

A strong design support. And then last, not least,TI is very much aware of the importance of availability. So we want to make it from our side, make it very easy for our customers to order the devices. From our side and deliver as fast as possible. 

Hywel: Brilliant. Thank you very much back. I think that’s a great place to, to sum up and to wrap up this.

I think, yeah  my thanks to you both think this has been a really interesting conversation. We’ve, I think I’ve learned a lot and hopefully I, our listeners have learned a lot about the importance of the power system in space in space hardware and what. What, what is impacting changes in this area and innovation?

What the the challenges that the unique environment of space presents when you are considering how to power all of the systems, the trends in the technologies being used on what data process in and deployables and the requirements for, debris, collision of violence, and all sorts of reasons why systems are becoming more power hungry.

And then obviously the challenge is that this, in turn, Provides the increases in heat in different areas, the requirements to handle different steps in load. And it’s great to also hear about the different levels at which TI is looking to serve this market and solve these problems in terms of optimizing existing components, developing new products for the market, working on the designs and the examples you’re providing. And at a high level. Working on the standardization and the adoption of these systems, and obviously yes. Availability as you’ve summed up, as you finished on there, Michael. Availability and the component level has been a challenge for companies in all different industries over the last few years.

This isn’t particularly in, the semiconductors. This isn’t this in the price with anybody. So it’s very important that these suppliers can be reliably insured for space companies moving forwards, particularly those developing real commercial services. So lots for engineers to take home and to to work on this.

So yeah, just would like to say thank you very much

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Space Industry by satsearch. I hope you enjoyed today’s story about one of the companies taking us into orbit. We’ll be back soon with more in-depth behind-the-scenes insights from private space businesses.

In the meantime, you can go to satsearch.com for more information on the space industry today, or find us on social media if you have any questions or comments. Stay up to date. Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter and you can also get each podcast on demand on iTunes, Spotify, the Google play store, or whichever podcast service you typically use.

electrical power systems
satellite technology
space industry

related articles

Blog home

Microsatellite and CubeSat platforms on the global market

CubeSat thrusters and small satellite propulsion systems

Ground station service providers: an overview of telemetry and telecommand communication services and networks for small satellites