NASA looking at analog FFT digital processor for wavefront sensing

Goddard technologist Jonathan Pellish holds a Goddard-developed digital test board (larger) and the IRAD-developed daughter card containing the analog-based data-processing integrated circuit. The daughter card snaps into the digital test board and will be used to test a number of spaceflight processing applications. (Image: NASA/Goddard/Pat Izzo)

Greenbelt, MD--NASA researcher Jonathan Pellish, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is working on a computing technology of yesteryear -- analog, rather than digital, data processing -- as an approach to more-quickly calculate fast Fourier transforms (FFTs) for optical wavefront sensing and control, among other applications. The technology relies on an analog-based microchip developed with significant support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The device is being fabricated at a Cambridge, Mass.-based company, Analog Devices Lyric Labs. Among other products, the company has developed an analog-based integrated circuit geared specifically for computing Fourier transforms. The NASA team will use the technology, which the company donated, to assemble several custom circuit boards. “We’ll take the hardware and see what it can do with our data and applications,” Pellish explained.

So convinced is he of its potential, Pellish is meeting with scientists and engineers to explain the technology’s capabilities and is using fiscal year 2013 NASA Center Innovation Fund resources to have the printed circuit boards built, so that researchers can use to test the technology’s performance for a range of scientific applications. He also has carried out preliminary radiation-effects studies to see how the technology’s architecture holds up under the extreme environment encountered in space.

“I think this technology could fundamentally change the way we carry out onboard processing," says Pellish. Due to its analog nature, the microchip can perform a calculation more efficiently, with fewer circuits and less power than a digital processor -- attributes important for space- and power-constrained spacecraft instruments, Pellish notes. (Although “there has been an overwhelming amount of positive support for the technology within Goddard” since Pellish began introducing colleagues to its capabilities, he is the first to concede that the technology isn’t appropriate for all space applications.)

FFT for other uses, too
Jeffrey Klenzing, who works with Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory, wants to evaluate the technology’s use for on-board data processing, particularly for studies of the sun. “For a typical sounding rocket application, we send all data down and perform fast Fourier transforms on the ground. However, for satellite missions, this is not feasible given limited telemetry,” Klenzing said. “A chip for performing rapid, reliable FFTs would be very useful for such heliophysics missions, particularly with the push toward smaller, low-power satellites such as CubeSats and nanosats.”



A long way from the ruby laser

Most Popular Articles


Laser Measurements Critical to Successful Additive Manufacturing Processes

Maximizing the stability of the variables going into any manufacturing process is what ensures ts consistency and high quality. Specifically, when a laser is...

Ray Optics Simulations with COMSOL Multiphysics

The Ray Optics Module can be used to simulate electromagnetic wave propagation when the wavelength is much smaller than the smallest geometric entity in the ...

Multichannel Spectroscopy: Technology and Applications

This webcast, sponsored by Hamamatsu, highlights some of the photonic technology used in spectroscopy, and the resulting applications.

Handheld Spectrometers

Spectroscopy is a powerful and versatile tool that traditionally often required a large and bulky instrument. The combination of compact optics and modern pa...
White Papers

Narrow-line fiber-coupled modules for DPAL pumping

A new series of fiber coupled diode laser modules optimized for DPAL pumping is presented, featur...

Accurate LED Source Modeling Using TracePro

Modern optical modeling programs allow product design engineers to create, analyze, and optimize ...

Optical Isolators Improve Engraving Performance of Pulsed Fiber Lasers

The deleterious effects of back reflections on pulsed fiber lasers used in marking and engraving ...
Technical Digests

ADHESIVES, SEALANTS, AND COATINGS: Solutions for optical technologies

A vast array of optical systems of various types and degrees of complexity require the use of adh...

WAVELENGTH-SWEPT LASERS: Dispersion-tuned fiber laser sweeps over a 140 nm range for OCT

By eliminating the use of mechanical tunable filters and instead tuning by intensity-modulation i...

Keeping pace with developments in photonic materials research

For demanding or custom spectroscopy solutions, care must be taken in selecting and integrating a...

HIGH-POWER FIBER LASERS: Working in the kilowatt regime

High-power materials-processing fiber lasers are available in an increasing variety of forms, as ...

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.
Social Activity
Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS