Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Japan's SpriteSat with be first with MRAM

SciAm reports online Japanese satellite SpriteSat, scheduled for launch this September and designed to study "Sprites," the spectacular spaceflight discovered phenomena that is the some-time and high-altitude counterpart of powerful lightning discharges, with be the first to utilize a hybrid kind of very robust magnetic memory, MRAM.

Considering the harsh lunar "environment," and what are bound to be complex needs for data, we may be seeing the first of what might be needed for a place of extremes.

It's worth a read. Here's some highlights:

"MRAM has the storage capabilities of flash and the speed and endurance of SRAM," says Saied Tehrani, a Freescale fellow and director of analog and mixed signal technologies.

He says that MRAM's role is novel, because it marks the first time that magnetic materials that store information are being combined with the silicon circuitry that reads and writes the information. He notes that it's also a lot quicker, more efficient and durable than flash. "We are programming the memory in 35 nanoseconds—five or six orders of magnitude faster than flash—and the number of times we reprogram is unlimited," Tehrani says, noting that flash takes microseconds to program, milliseconds to erase and can be reused about 100,000 times.

He adds that MRAM performs nearly as fast as SRAM.The four-megabit Freescale MRAM device is part of Uppsala, Sweden–based Ångström's Tohoku-ÅAC MEMS Unit (TAMU), a magnetometer subsystem that will be sent into space aboard SpriteSat, which was built by Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and takes its name from the role it will play monitoring the effects of "sprites" in Earth's upper atmosphere. The satellite is set to monitor the phenomenon from an orbit about 500 miles (800 kilometers) above the planet."

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