A Sky High Idea Takes Root in Montana
How do you protect a satellite's computer from radiation in space, which could scramble its memory? The usual way is to build the computer using expensive radiation-resistant material. The problem with that is the size and weight of the computer and, of course, the cost.
Research teams at Bozeman's Montana State University (MSU) worked with NASA to test a different solution to the problem. They Built a small computer that includes several processors, which can take over immediately if radiation causes a problem with the memory. The MSU Space Science and Engineering Laboratory in the Department of Physics developed the idea, which has the name RadPC, and tested it in high-altitude balloons, two satellites, and on the International Space Station. It's shown great results, according to professor Brock LaMeres, who has founded the company "Resilient Computing" in Bozeman to produce that type of computer.
NASA likes the company and recently awarded it $90,000 from the their Entrepreneurs Challenge competition. The Montana firm was one of seven winners in the nation. LeMeres said in a news release, "This is the culmination of a lot of effort to move this technology out of the lab and into the private sector. A lot of people, especially at MSU, have helped us get here."
The money will help Resilient Computing increase production of the computer circuit board and software. A prototype of the RadPC will be going to the space station and another is scheduled to be tested on the moon's surface, probably in 2023.
LaMeres said the process of taking the idea to market included licensing, more research, and more funding during the last year. A nonprofit called Early Stage Montana added the company to its HyperAccelerator program. LaMeres said the advice he recieved over the last year has helped. "There's really a wealth of resources that researchers at MSU can draw on when their inventions have real-world applications. All these mentoring programs have helped us get funding, start a business and take off running," he said.