STP-H5-SpaceCube - Mini (STP-H5 Space Cube - Mini) - 01.16.19

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The  International Space Station hosts hundreds of scientific experiments, but much of the computation and analysis for these experiments is done on the ground, where scientists have access to more powerful computers. The STP-H5 SpaceCube - Mini is a miniaturized version of a hybrid computer processor that provides a 10- to 100-fold improvement in on-board computing power while lowering power consumption and cost. The processor can be used in CubeSats, SmallSats and other applications, reducing the need for transferring large amounts of data to Earth for processing.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Tom Flatley, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Tom Flatley, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States

Information Pending

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2016 - October 2019

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
SpaceCube on STS-125 (Hubble Servicing Mission), SpaceCube on MISSE 7/8, SpaceCube 1.0 and 2.0 on STP-H4.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • This research provides flight validation of the STP-H5 SpaceCube - Mini and advanced on-board processing capabilities for Earth Science/atmospheric chemistry. These validated capabilities increase the TRL of these technologies from TRL 6 to TRL 8 and reduce the programmatic risk of using these technologies on future missions.
  • Future Earth Science, Space Science, Exploration and Satellite Servicing missions are able to implement this enabling computing technology to perform complex on-board functions that are previously limited to ground based systems, such as on-board product generation, data reduction, calibration, classification, event/feature detection, data mining and real-time autonomous operations.

SpaceCube is a family of Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based on-board science data processing systems developed at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The goal of the SpaceCube program is to provide 10x to 100x improvements in on-board computing power while lowering relative power consumption and cost. SpaceCube is based on the Xilinx Virtex family of FPGA processors, which include CPU, FPGA and DSP resources. These processing elements are leveraged to produce a hybrid science data processing platform that accelerates the execution of science data processing algorithms by distributing computational functions among the elements, allowing each type of processor to do “what it’s good at”. This approach enables the implementation of complex on-board functions that were previously limited to ground based systems, such as on-board product generation, data reduction, calibration, classification, event/feature detection, data mining and real-time autonomous operations. The system also is fully reconfigurable in flight (both software and FPGA logic), through either ground commanding or autonomously in response to detected events/features in the instrument data stream. The SpaceCube 1.0 system first flew as part of the Relative Navigation Sensors (RNS) experiment during Hubble Servicing Mission 4 in May 2009. The second SpaceCube 1.0 experiment is currently flying as part of the Naval Research Lab (NRL) Materials on the International Space Station Experiment 7 (MISSE7) payload that was installed on the ISS in November 2009. The purpose of the MISSE7 SpaceCube experiment is to test and validate our “Radiation Hardened By Software (RHBS)” upset mitigation techniques. The RHBS strategy involves a combination of traditional “memory scrubber” functions and a “program execution error detection and correction” software architecture that runs in the background to find and fix single and multi-bit radiation induced upsets in the FPGA. The goal of RHBS is to enable the reliable use of commercial rad-tolerant processing elements in space and to “asymptotically approach” the reliability of true rad-hard systems while providing “order of magnitude” improvements in computing power. The original SpaceCube 1.0 system was based on Xilinx Virtex 4 FPGA technology, and new systems are currently being developed (SpaceCube 2.0 and SpaceCube - Mini) using Xilinx Virtex 5 FPGA technology. The ISS SpaceCube Experiment 2.0 (ISE 2.0) experiment is currently flying as part of STP-H4 and continues this research on the version 2.0 system, in addition to SpaceCube serving as the on-board instrument data processor for a Heliophysics experiment measuring gamma ray bursts from lightning storms. STP-H5 experiment validates the miniaturized version of the SpaceCube 2.0 (SpaceCube - Mini) plus real-time on-board Earth Science product generation algorithms for atmospheric methane.

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Space Applications
With the SpaceCube - Mini processor, future space missions are able to complete complex computer tasks that were previously limited to ground-based computers, including calibration, data mining and real-time autonomous operations. Completing these tasks on board saves time and reduce costs related to transferring large amounts of data to the ground.

Earth Applications
The SpaceCube - Mini processor enables future small-satellite missions that benefit people on Earth, including satellites studying climate change, natural disasters, weather, land use and ecosystem changes.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

It is desirable to operate this experiment for a minimum of one year, with two years being a goal. The experiment can operate continuously, but some downtime due to the sharing of the STP-H5 data downlink is acceptable and expected. Infrequent downtime due to other ISS needs is also acceptable and no special accommodations are required for this instrument.

This experiment runs autonomously. Brief ground commanding is required to configure the experiment after each power cycle.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
STP-H5-SpaceCube - Mini

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NASA Image: ISS050E052652 - Space Test Program-H5 (STP-H5). Photo taken during Expedition 50.

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