Maxwell Technologies Space Computers Provide Processing Power for European Space Agency Astronomy Mission to Map the Milky Way Galaxy
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Press release date: February 6, 2014
SAN DIEGO – Maxwell Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: MXWL) supplied seven powerful single board computers that are providing processing power for the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia satellite, which lifted off on December 19, 2013, to survey more than a billion stars and other celestial bodies to trace the origin and evolution of the Milky Way galaxy.
Gaia is a key European space mission financed and implemented by ESA. Gaia was developed by European aerospace companies, with Airbus Defence and Space France-based unit, formerly known as Astrium, as prime contractor and payload supplier. Maxwell supplied the computers through a $3 million subcontract with Airbus Defence and Space's United Kingdom-based satellite unit, which designed and manufactured Gaia's seven video processing units (VPU).
The Maxwell SCS750 space computers, which are incorporated into Gaia's VPUs, are operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process images and data gathered by the two-ton satellite's two telescopes and billion-pixel digital camera. The massive volume of data that will be collected during the five-year ESA mission and the precision of the imaging instrumentation will enable scientists to create a three-dimensional map of the galaxy and study its formation with unprecedented detail and accuracy.
Peter Bennie, Airbus Defence and Space's project team leader, said, "the satellite will observe and record the motion, brightness, temperature and composition of a billion or more stars 70 times each over the life of the mission. After our exhaustive evaluation of available space-qualified computers we determined that Maxwell's SCS750 was the only single board computer that could meet both our video processing requirements and Gaia's power and mass constraints."
The satellite was launched into an orbit at Lagrange point 2, which is 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) into space on the "night side" of the Earth so that it is shielded from glare from the Earth, sun and moon that otherwise would interfere with image and data collection. ESA officials expect the information gathered by the Gaia mission to have an impact on astronomy comparable to that of weather satellites to meteorology or genome mapping to the study of genetics.
Proprietary component shielding technology and system-level architecture enable Maxwell's SCS750 to withstand the effects of environmental radiation encountered in space to provide the most reliable space computer currently available. It is based on a "triple modular redundancy architecture in which three commercial IBM PowerPC 750® processors run the same program at all times and "vote" on each operation. If one of the processors suffers a radiation-induced upset and disagrees with the other two, the system is automatically resynchronized and resumes error-free operation.
About ESA: The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe's gateway to space. It is an inter-governmental organization, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
About Airbus Defence and Space: Airbus Defence and Space is Europe's No.1 defense and space company. Worldwide, it ranks second for space and is among the top ten defense companies, with revenues of approximately EUR14 billion per year.
About Maxwell: Maxwell Technologies is a global leader in the development and manufacture of innovative, cost-effective energy storage and power delivery solutions. Our ultracapacitor products provide safe and reliable power solutions for applications in consumer and industrial electronics, transportation and telecommunications. Our CONDIS® high-voltage grading and coupling capacitors help to ensure the safety and reliability of electric utility infrastructure and other applications involving transport, distribution and measurement of high-voltage electrical energy. Our radiation-mitigated microelectronic products include power modules, memory modules and single board computers that incorporate powerful commercial silicon for superior performance and high reliability in aerospace applications. For more information visit www.maxwell.com.
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