NASA Perseverance rover 200 MHZ CPU costs $200K

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Listen, I know we're all complaining about the fact that CPUs and GPUs, components in general are expensive. But wait until you hear this one. NASA Perseverance rover uses a processor that runs at 200 MHz, and it did cost roughly $200K USD.

Obviously, it's a CPU that needs to be able to run in a somewhat stringent environment. But more details on it, have surfaced on the web. The technology of the on-board computer Rover Compute Element (RCE for short) is reduced for performance, far below that of normal desktop PCs.

The chip has a size of 130 mm 2 and a computing power of 240 to 366 MIPS, the processor requires five watts. It has 10.4 million transistors and is manufactured by BAE Systems using the 0.25-micrometer process. According to the manufacturer, the CPU, which costs around $ 200,000, is already in over 250 spacecraft. If the RCE fails, an identical backup system switches on in the Mars rover.

The RAD750 processor works with clock rates from 110 to 200 MHz. In addition, the on-board computer has 256 MB of RAM, 2 GB of flash memory and a so-called warm electronics box to maintain a constant system temperature. However, it has a decisive advantage over other systems: robustness. The RCE withstands temperatures from -55 ° C to +125 ° C. In addition, the processor is not only extremely robust against extreme temperatures, but it also withstands radiation levels that would put conventional systems out of action. To put it into perspective: The RAD750 can withstand radiation of up to 10,000 Gray (Gy for short) - 6 Gy means death for humans.

NASA developers already fear that the system will crash in about 15 years due to external circumstances. In addition, the VxWorks operating system working in Perseverance would have to be supplied with new patches at some point. It remains to be seen how long the system will withstand the extremely difficult circumstances on Mars. A similar system of the Mars rover Curiosity has been running for almost ten years.

NASA Perseverance rover 200 MHZ CPU costs $200K

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