Ready for radiation

The first 0.25 micron radiation-hardened transistor has been fabricated at BAE Systems newly upgraded microelectronics fabrication facility at Manassas, Virginia.

‘This event is an important milestone in building a next generation of radiation-hardened electronics for future spacecraft,’ said George Nossaman, director of Space Systems and Electronics.

Nossaman called the advanced transistor’s production ‘another successful step in our 20-year heritage of partnering with our customers to provide radiation-hardened components for advanced spacecraft electronics design.’

Previously, BAE Systems produced the RAD6000 processor chip, which contained more than one million transistors. ‘With the foundry upgrade, we’ll be building our RAD750 processor chip which will contain more than 11 million transistors,’ Nossaman said.

According to BAE Systems, US national security is increasingly dependent on space systems. Communications networks, surveillance capabilities and navigation systems rely heavily on satellites. A new generation of BAE Systems radiation-hardened electronics – more than ten times more capable than predecessors – will help to ensure that satellites launched over the next decade can both survive the rigors of space and meet the needs of national defense.

The 0.25 micron transistor was produced following the initial stage of the Manassas foundry upgrade. The foundry renovation will be completed in 2004 with the support of the US Defense Department’s (DoD) Accelerated Radiation Hardened Microelectronics Program.

The $91 million foundry upgrade consists of two co-ordinated projects. The first, managed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), establishes the complex semiconductor fabrication process. The second project, managed by the US AirForce Research Laboratory (AFRL), upgrades the tools and equipment that run the processes and physically fabricate the radiation hardened chips.