INPhINIT Incoming PhD: "A fault-tolerant computing architecture for a space weather mission "

  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas   Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía   Excelencia Severo Ochoa   HR Excellence in Research
February, 4th 2020
(4) Enhanced Science infrastructure and research capabilities

The IAA’s Solar Physics Group (SPG) is a dynamic research group formed by scientists and engineers from many disciplines whose main scientific interests root in solar spectropolarimetry and magnetic fields from three points of view: theoretical, observational, and instrumental. Investigations and developments are carried out on:

· the structure and physical nature of photospheric magnetic structures like plage and network flux tubes, the umbra, the penumbra, the moat of sunspots, and the internetwork magnetic fields, as well as on the magnetic coupling of the various atmospheric layers of the Sun;

· the design, development, and construction of solar instrumentation for space missions and stratospheric balloons: PHI instrument for Solar Orbiter and IMaX, IMaX+ and SCIP instruments for Sunrise.

· the radiative transfer equation (RTE) for polarized light in the presence of magnetic fields, in order to work out the sensitivities of the Stokes spectrum on the various physical quantities of the solar photosphere.

Of relevance to this project is our development of an electronic inverter of the RTE and a compression core for sending the data to ground. The present proposal builds upon this development.

The SPG is currently working on pre-developments for the Polarimetric and Magnetic Imager instrument (PMI) which will be boarded on the Lagrange mission (ESA). If approved, the SPG will have co-PI responsibility for developing the whole Electronic Unit and harness of PMI. In the harsh environment of Lagrange, we cannot use common commercial-off-the-shelf processors due to radiation problems and to power limitations.

The combination of state-of-the-art, radiation tolerant devices like ASIC or FPGA becomes almost mandatory. The computing architecture embedded within those devices must be specifically designed to deal with a particular problem, therefore they will have be tailored to each stage of processing, which implies a great design and validation effort.


The candidate will investigate in the FPGA technology domain for new protection mechanisms and failure recovery schemes against errors induced by radiation. Specifically, he/she will study how to protect the computing architectures embedded on FPGA and how to detect failures during the duty cycle of the data processing unit.

She/he will carry out a statistical analysis of the errors and failures expected according to an orbit radiation conditions. She/he will participate in the design phases of the tailored computing architectures for the scientific calculations and will study different approaches to get the best protection. Since the FPGAs have limited amount of internal resources, the analysis will include a set of trade-offs between computation capabilities versus protection to errors.

The proposal will be tested on a real space mission, and therefore, it will provide the community with valuable information about its behaviour and performance under stringent conditions. Nevertheless, the wide applications that are envisaged for these techniques promise further use in other instruments and missions.

Period (months): 
36 months

IAA is an equal opportunity institution. Applications to this program by female scientists are particularly encouraged.

Should you need any further information or assistance concerning the application, please contact the IAA at severoochoa[at]