MINES-SVM, as a sub-project within the coordinated project M3EC, has specific objectives related to the development of the mixed-signal ASIC required for the MEDA wind sensor, which will be included in NASA's Mars2020 mission. An operative prototype of this ASIC is currently (April 2016) available, as a result of previous projects and contracts. It is in its final functional verification stage, and will probably satisfy the requirements and specs of the instrument. The technology employed for the design and manufacturing of the ASIC is a standard 0.35 microns CMOS process. This technology had been previously characterized for space use by the research team, also in the framework of previous projects.
The MEDA ASIC performs the functions of analog front-end for temperature sensors based on platinum resistors and thermopiles, and sigma-delta thermal control loops and power measurements. This includes signal conditioning and analog to digital conversion, as well as configuration and data communications through a standard digital interface. The design employs Radiation Hardening By Design (RHBD) techniques, including functional redundancy and specific layout techniques.
Within this framework, the first objective of MINES-SVM is to finalize the test and validation for space use of this ASIC. This includes the completion of the electrical functional tests, as well as the verification of the radiation hardness and the behavior at low and high temperatures through specific additional tests.
The ASIC must be manufactured again in order to achieve a minimum number of samples, as required by the formal screening associated with its use in space. Minor refinements could be introduced in the design in this new manufacturing lot, depending on the results of the functional tests and the radiation hardness and low-temperature tests. In any case, the final version of the ASIC, with its final packaging, will need to be qualified for space use following formal processes by an external agent. This will require the design of several test systems for the functional/electrical validation tests, and for those tests related to radiation tolerance (both TID and SEEs), low-temperature behaviour, and life-tests of the ASIC. The second objective of MINES-SVM is the integration of the ASIC in the engineering and flight modules of the wind sensor, and the calibration of the overall measuring system. The integration of the wind sensor within the rover, considering possible effects on the measuring function, will also be supported.
The main result of MINES-SVM will be the availability of this space-qualified ASIC. This will represent a clear competitive advantage for future missions and similar designs.
As a collateral result, this subproject will help to consolidate the space-microelectronics design capability at a national level. The technologies involved have been identified as critical at the European level, including microelectronics, discrete-components electronics, advanced packaging materials, and the mitigation of the radiation effects on electronic systems. In summary, the background objective is to generate, at a national level, a complete set of mature and high performance resources for the development of space instruments demanded by the national or international scientific community, or by other sectors traditionally linked to the space sector like those of Security and Defense.