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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Goddard Space Flight Center

Office of the Chief Technologist

Office of the Chief Technologist

Two Columns


A Year of Accolades…And Now Another
Tom Flatley Chosen Goddard ‘Innovator of the Year’

Goddard engineer Tom Flatley, who has spent the past several years enhancing the Goddard-developed SpaceCube flight processor and finding new applications for the more powerful technology, has received his share of accolades this year, and now he has another to add to his curriculum vitae.

The Office of the Chief Technologist has announced that it has chosen Flatley as its 2013 “IRAD Innovator of the Year,” a prize it awards annually to those who exemplify the best in innovation and contribute substantially to NASA’s mission and goals.

“His accomplishments, as evidenced by his vigorous pursuit of new SpaceCube products and applications, made him a stand-out within Goddard’s technology community this year. He richly deserves not only our recognition but also that of the American Astronautical Society, which bestowed its 2012 William Randolph Lovelace II Award on him earlier this year,” said Goddard Chief Technologist Peter Hughes.

SpaceCube Offers Alternative

Ten to 100 times faster than the current radiation-hardened flight processors SpaceCube offers science missions a much-needed alternative for science-data processing (successfully proven in certain low-Earth orbits), particularly those requiring more robust computing power to handle significantly higher data rates from a smaller, more energy-efficient platform, Hughes said.

Tom Flatley
Tom Flatley wins the FY13 “IRAD Innovator of the Year” award for his pioneering work advanced the SpaceCube family of products. (Photo Credit: Bill Hrybck/NASA)

SpaceCube achieves its data-crunching prowess because Flatley and his team have married commercial radiation-tolerant Xilinx Virtex field programmable gate array technology to Goddard-developed algorithms that detect and correct radiation-induced upsets. Results from the MISSE7 SpaceCube experiment (six resets in three years, with a 99.9979% uptime) demonstrate that SpaceCube can operate reliably in the Space Station orbit/inclination, while providing “order-of-magnitude” improvements in onboard computing power for science data processing and non-safety critical functions.
First demonstrated in 2009 on Hubble Servicing Mission-4, the first-generation processor — SpaceCube 1.0 — has since evolved into a family of products that can meet nearly any spaceflight. All members of the product line-up — SpaceCube 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and the SpaceCube-Mini — were developed with support from IRAD, the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, the Earth Science Technology Office and Defense Department funding. And all have flown or have been selected to fly on a variety of spaceflight missions, including the most recent Defense Department’s Space Test Program-H4 mission deployed on the International Space Station.
“Not only has Tom innovated new products under the SpaceCube brand, he continuously looks for new applications, benefitting NASA, the U.S. military, and private research institutions. If anyone can find an application for this technology, it’s Tom. We congratulate him for his success,” Hughes said.

The SpaceCube-Mini
This year’s winner of Goddard’s “Innovator of the Year” award, Tom Flatley, has played a pivotal role advancing Goddard’s SpaceCube family of products. Shown here is the SpaceCube-Mini, along with two other devices that show the relative sizes of tiny satellites or Cubesats on which SpaceCube is slated to fly in the future. (Photo Credit: Bill Hrybck/NASA)


The Office of the Chief Technologist is involved in a variety of projects, missions, and technologies.