NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

A new center devoted to the development of miniaturized spacecraft electronics and avionics of the future has been established at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A ceremony dedicating a 465-square-meter (5,000-square-foot) facility for the new Center for Integrated Space Microelectronics took place at JPL on Friday, June 5. The facility will be used for the design, development, rapid prototyping and integration of autonomous microsystems.

The NASA budget request issued in February has allocated $10 million to the center for this fiscal year and $15 million per year for the next several fiscal years.

"The center will lead the way in the development of what could be called 'thinking' micro-spacecraft of the future," says Dr. Leon Alkalai, who heads up the center. "The work that goes on at the center will be at the very heart of space exploration for the 21st century."

The center's goal is leadership in integrated microsystems, advanced space avionics and computing technologies for future deep space missions. Its primary focus is the development of highly miniaturized, integrated and autonomous space microsystems. These include such technologies as "systems on a chip," advanced nanodevices and nanostructures, reconfigurable and evolvable hardware, modular software and revolutionary computing technologies for spacecraft control.

The center is part of NASA's Advanced Deep Space System Development Program, also known as X2000, whose mandate is the delivery of new generations of modular, multi-mission spacecraft buses to diverse NASA programs. These include the New Millennium Program's Deep Space 4/Champollion mission and the Outer Planets Project's Europa Orbiter, Pluto-Kuiper Express and Solar Probe.

The center's contributions will enable X2000's integrated, miniaturized, autonomous spacecraft systems for deep space and Earth-orbiting missions. The center will deliver X2000's avionics systems, with the goal of developing breakthrough technologies for "avionics on a chip" by integrating computer, telecommunications, navigation, power management and sensor technologies into a single micro-unit by 2006.

The center will also contribute to each subsequent generation of X2000 spacecraft design, addressing such challenges as science payload accommodation, avionics scalability, temperature control, power constraints, propulsive capability and spacecraft autonomy. Further information is available at http://cism.jpl.nasa.gov/. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.


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