Aerospace & Defence

Aitech’s AI supercomputer on NASA’s LOFTID

1st June 2023
Harry Fowle

With the successful launch and re-entry of NASA’s Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) on 10th November 2022, Aitech’s S-A1760 Venus AI supercomputer became the first use of GPGPU technology in space.

Six S-A1760 Venus GPGPUs were onboard to help control and record the visible and infrared camera images from each of the six camera pods viewing the LOFTID heatshield. The GPGPU helped ensure recovery of the backup recordings for the mission’s captured camera data and provided critical intelligence on the aeroshell/heatshield performance.

Pratish Shah, General Manager U.S. of Aitech, said, “Driving innovation is at the heart of what we do, so being a part of this ground-breaking mission makes all of us at Aitech incredibly proud. Not only have we put the first GPGPU into space, but we’ve helped make great strides in more affordable, reusable technology for the entire space industry as well as enable exploration into deeper orbits.”

Using the NVIDIA Jetson TX2i system-on-module (SoM), the S-A1760 Venus is the most powerful and smallest radiation-characterised space AI GPGPU rated for space flight and small satellite constellations used in near earth orbit (NEO) and low earth orbit (LEO) applications. The TX2i features the Pascal architecture with 256 CUDA cores and reaches 1 TFLOPS of processing.

The S-A1760 Venus is a small form factor (SFF) AI supercomputer that boasts a robust set of I/O interfaces including Gigabit Ethernet, UART Serial, USB 2.0, CANbus and discretes as well as DVI/HDMI output. Video capture includes an HD-SDI input with a dedicated H.264 encoder and eight RS-170A (NTSC)/PAL composite channels available simultaneously.

NASA’s LOFTID demonstrated a cross-cutting aeroshell – a type of heat shield – for atmospheric re-entry. The inflatable decelerator technology is scalable for both crewed and large robotic missions to Mars, and the results of the November 10th LOFTID demonstration will inform future designs for inflatable heat shields that could be used to land heavier payloads on worlds with atmospheres, including Mars, Venus, Saturn's moon Titan, and Earth.

Aitech has developed cost-effective COTS-based and custom integrated systems for use in various government, commercial and private space programs for four decades. In addition to Level 100 (development), Level 200 (test flight) and Level 500 (beyond LEO) space products, the company offers Level Series 300 space electronics, specifically designed as cost-effective, reliable COTS solutions that bridge the gap between costly radiation hardened EEE parts and those that can be effectively used for lower orbits and shorter duration LEO and NEO space missions.

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