In The Next Frontier of Integrated Circuits: Space, Part 1, I described the progressive enhancement of the portfolio of companies producing ICs for aerospace applications. That’s, for example, the case with Atmel, which has made a great contribution to the space community, comprising many growing companies that operate in the aerospace market.
Atmel enlarged its portfolio in the recent past by adding some radiation-hardened products. According to its website:
Atmel France Aerospace gives customers access to the latest innovative commercial technologies by adapting them to rad-hard applications requirements. The 180nm process is in full production, and Atmel France Aerospace is now introducing a 150nm mixed process, 90nm and 65nm.
The same manufacturing lines are used to produce automotive and rad-hard devices. This dual-use approach allows highly competitive and proven, reliable solutions.
Our circuits are available in rad-hard versions that meet the stringent requirements (cumulated dose, latch-up and transient phenomena) of space applications. Design and manufacturing facilities reach international quality standards recognition and are QML-V or ESCC certified.
Most of these companies work on the development of an aerospace portfolio of products either for military purposes or for scientific purposes of exploration of space.
That’s the role of the European Space Agency, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of European space exploration activity. ESA has some space rockets that have been utilized for commercial purposes, like the Ariane 5:
Ariane 5 is the cornerstone of Europe’s independent access to space. Its reliability, availability and affordability are based on a strategy where a significant part of the exploitation costs is financed through commercial activity.
Ariane 5 is launched six to seven times a year, of which only one or two are for institutional customers.
ESA has accomplished many space missions for scientific purposes, like, for example, the recent landing on a comet and the scanning of Earth's atmosphere to precisely analyze its climate and scanning Earth's geology from a different perspective — the space view. This perspective is limitless, because open space is an environment that remains virtually unknown. Hence there is a lot of potential in this field.
Do you think this is an opportunity that is not to be missed by IC producers in the near future? Do you think that each big player in the semiconductor market should have a good portfolio of products for aerospace applications? In your opinion, is it a profitable business for the makers of integrated circuits?