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A Force in Space: Xilinx RT Kintex UltraScale Space-Grade FPGA Ready for Liftoff

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
8 2 2,743

by Gabe Dominguez, Technical Sales Engineer at Xilinx, Inc.


With America establishing the Space Force, NASA planning to return us on the moon, and private spaceflight ramping up satellite launches, it’s clear the revival of space is well underway. There’s no doubt 2020 will be an exciting journey for space innovation and we’re thrilled to be ready for liftoff with our next generation space-grade FPGA.

Today, we announced the industry’s first true on-orbit reconfigurable device, the Radiation Tolerant (RT) Kintex UltraScale FPGA (XQRKU060). In response to the demand for technology with ultra-high bandwidth, high throughput support, and full radiation-tolerance across all orbits, we are delivering a comprehensive solution for all space applications. Built on a heritage of over 20 years, the new device brings in the advantages of our 20nm UltraScale architecture to the Space-Grade (XQR) portfolio. The RT Kintex UltraScale FPGA is the centerpiece of a platform and partner ecosystem that offers new development tools and qualified partner solutions to optimize and accelerate customer designs.


 Modern satellites are expected to complete incredible tasks with an unprecedented performance that can now be achieved by RT Kintex UltraScale FPGA. With an upgraded programmable logic architecture, only Xilinx with our adaptive compute technology enables unlimited on-orbit reconfiguration! As the adoption of machine learning (ML) capability is trending across all industries, our new FPGA is also ready to bring real-time on-board processing to space for the first time. The XQRKU060 is complemented with ML model frameworks and open-source compilers to deliver neural network inference acceleration for real-time on-board processing in space with a complete “process and analyze” solution. Additionally, the RT Kintex UltraScale brings a >10X increase in digital signal processing (DSP) performance over the previous generation for processing compute-intensive algorithms and analytics. These are astronomical features for astronomical functionality.

The harsh environment of space demands the resiliency of RT Kintex UltraScale FPGAs. We designed these chips to defend against the adverse climates of all orbits ranging from LEO to Deep Space. The ruggedized 40 x 40mm Ceramic Column Grid Array (CCGA) packaging was designed to withstand the vibrations and handling during launch. The radiation-tolerant device has been qualified to handle Total Ionizing Dose (TID) levels greater than 100Krad and Single Event Latchup (SEL) levels of greater than 80MeV-cm2/mg. Flight-ready XQRKU060 FPGAs will be qualified in Xilinx Class B (QML-B equivalent) and Xilinx Class Y (QML-Y equivalent) in accordance with MIL-PRF-38535. Our Space Lounge contains more information on how we protect against space’s intense conditions.

RT 20nm Release.png


From navigation satellites to earth observation to deep space science missions, the RT Kintex UltraScale FPGA can perform any space application. For example, communication satellites are now expected to broadcast and transmit data from any location in the world in real-time. A satellite can only meet this expectation with an on-board processor using digital beamforming for flexible payloads.  The inherent re-configurable nature of an FPGA coupled with DSP capability makes the XQRKU060 a perfect match. Our White Paper describes more examples of how RT Kintex UltraScale can perform other applications.

Missions of the future will thrive on the advantages of RT Kintex UltraScale platform. Imagine adding UltraScale benefits to the proven technology of our prior generations. Missions of past such as Iridium NEXT and Mars Curiosity Rover succeeded with the reliability of Virtex-5QV and Virtex-4QV FPGAs. The XQRKU060 advances the space industry by three process node generations and also adds the ability to design hardware with our Vivado Design Suite and develop software with our  Vitis Unified Software Platform

NASA Mission MARS2020 (Source: NASA)NASA Mission MARS2020 (Source: NASA)

 Xilinx understands that collaboration can add exponential benefits. We proudly boast an extensive partner ecosystem that offers a broad set of solutions that are available today. With prototyping boards, space-qualified memory, IP, and power solutions, our ecosystem can greatly accelerate customer design time. Explore the space-qualified technology our partners have developed.

It’s an exciting time for space activity and we’re thrilled to do our part. As we prepare for the September shipment of XQRKU060 flight units, prototyping options are available today with the Kintex UltraScale Space Development Kit. Learn more by visiting the RT Kintex UltraScale product page at Check out the launch video: Introducing the Industry's First 20nm Space-Grade FPGA.

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee

Congrats on the great work of your team, Gabe!

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee

Nice job Gabe - I love the play on words - A Force in Space!