What type of computer do spacecraft utilize

You wouldn’t believe but spacecrafts use old CPUs, nothing fancy like Intel i9 or AMD.
Even rockets use nothing special. Eg SpaceX Falcon 9 uses triple redundancy dual core x86 main computers running Linux and software written in C/C++. As microcontrollers use PowerPC cores.

First Space Shuttle used 8086 and later was switched to 80386. Hubble uses 80486.

“Problem” with spacecrafts is long time needed to build one. At early stage CPUs must be known and this means no changes when final decision is made. CPUs selected must be reliable with all/most known bugs. Same applies for software.
Literally every CPU and software has bugs, a lot of undetected bugs. But does not only mean “physical” bug but also undefined behavior. For example famous Pentium floating point bug is only manifested as 1 out of 9 billion floating point operations!
Same for software when some specific operand combination could cause wrong code generation. Hardware and software used is old one used for billions of hours where most problems are known. That’s reason for codding requirements, eg in automotive most popular is MISRA while military/space has their own standards.

Cause spacecrafts are in space, without Earth magnetic shield, devices used are very special, and expensive, radiation hardened devices.
For example Opportunity Rover uses IBM RAD 6000 CPU with motherboard costs of 200,000 – 300,000 USD!
Newest spacecraft use different CPUs like MIPS R3000 with price 20,000 – 40,000 USD.
Latest slowly switch to 32 bits, memory management and OS.
This is above mentioned RAD 6000 – 300,000 USD baby.

In space, even in LEO (low Earth orbit), side facing sun heats to 100 deg C while dark side is at -150 deg C. Numbers are approx. Now imagine Parker solar probe, closes object to Sun. Temperature is so high that special shield could only survive for short time.

Another problem is enormous radiation. Heard of Van Allen belts?718 viewsView UpvotersView Sharers1031

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