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In the eoPortal's spacecraft Mission profile for the Flying Laptop, the term FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) appears 12 times, including the paragraph below. I'm still having trouble understanding how many FPGAs are used in toto and what precisely is each of their functions. Could someone more fluent in spacecraft computer systems architecture help clarify this?

FPGAs: The introduction and reliance of onboard computing with an FPGA system represents a new approach to conventional system architectures. It provides the capability to directly generate the logical configuration of FPGA gates from a C-like high level language without producing the machine code for a processor (hence, massive parallel processing is possible). Using an onboard computer architecture with several reciprocative checking FPGAs, a safe system is obtained that even exceeds the performance of current PCs through its ability of parallel real-time processing. An inherent advantage of FPGA architectures is the capability of reconfiguration within milliseconds.

I've taken the time to profile some of the specifications and innovations of the Flying Laptop.

Also see the question How do Field Programmable Gate Arrays affect the capabilities of probes?


EDIT: I had a false start when I was reading about the LEON 3 FT processor core. According to Wikipedia:

An FPGA implementation called LEON3FT-RTAX is proposed for critical space applications.

However, I don't think that the FPGA implementation is used here; The UT 699 LEON 3 FT is an ASIC implementation.

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    $\begingroup$ @pericynthion this excellent answer details numerous instances of "FPGAs on spacecraft". However the quote above refers to the use of FPGAs in "PCs" and "conventional systems" and does not tout the novelty of the appearance of FPGAs in spacecraft in any way. So is your comment really just a snarky non sequitur? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 9 '17 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ @pericynthion if there is a conventional satellite system architecture that relies on FPGA computing, an example would be appreciated. I'd call Mars rovers unconventional and the use of FPGAs in spacecraft highly application specific. A good counterexample is most welcome. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 9 '17 at 5:11
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    $\begingroup$ They weren't new when I built two of them into every one of the ~180 Planet Labs cubesats. My comment isn't a non sequitur, it's pointing out the fatuous nature of your source's assertion that use of FPGAs is a new approach. $\endgroup$ – pericynthion Aug 9 '17 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ @pericynthion I like to think of Planet Labs' approach as truly unconventional, new and innovative. But if you'd like to assert here that the Dove design is an example of FPGA use in a conventional system architecture, that's your prerogative. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 9 '17 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ Do you really mean "Floating Point Gate Array"? Most satellites use "Field Programmable Gate Array" $\endgroup$ – asdfex Aug 9 '17 at 6:32

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