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rad-hard aes space core

AES cores for
Space Applications


Helion have a wealth of experience in providing our customers with solutions optimised for use in Space applications. We are proud to count numerous satellite and space craft manufacturers from around the world as our repeat customers. Helion IP is currently working flawlessly in Earth orbit as well as further out in the Solar System.

Many of these deployments are commercially sensitive, but one we can mention is Helion's involvement in experiments on board the International Space Station. This is something we are particularly proud to have contributed to, and also highlights the calibre of end users we routinely work with.

What needs to be different?
Clearly there are many challenges faced by engineers designing hardware for use in a space application, and the IP core supplier can help with a few aspects of the design. The main aspect that can be addressed is in making the IP much easier to harden against radiation.

FPGAs used in space applications usually offer inbuilt measures to mitigate against Single Event Upsets (SEUs) in the logic fabric, but are typically unable to protect against corruptions in RAM. This must be handled using error detection & correction logic, which inevitably uses significant extra logic resources, adds to path delays, and requires additional verification. Hence offering IP that uses no RAM at all is especially positive for space applications.

The challenge of using no RAM
To get the best performance and utilisation for an AES engine built in slower FPGA technologies, RAM is typically used to save logic and gain speed. Whilst perfectly possible, an "all logic" AES core is usually very large and very slow. This is particularly detrimental in popular Rad-Tolerant FPGA technologies such as Microsemi (Actel) RTAX and RT ProASIC3, where users are always trying to maximise the use of the available logic resources and hit often challenging performance targets.

Helion RAM-less Solutions for use in space

Helion offer a suite of AES solutions that have been hand-crafted to use no RAM whilst absolutely minimising logic resources and without unduly compromising performance. These cores are the result of Helion's many years experience of designing AES cores for special and demanding requirements, such as space applications.

Tiny+ AES 0 to >30Mbps Low rate AES & AES-GCM
Standard AES 0 to >160Mbps Mid rate AES & AES-GCM
Fast AES 0 to >500Mbps High rate AES & AES-GCM

The table above shows the selection of "RAM-less" AES cores currently available from Helion - multiple solutions supporting throughputs up to 500Mbps, and higher, that cover the most popular system requirements found in space applications today.

All Helion RAM-less AES cores may be specified to support 128-bit and/or 256-bit key sizes, as well as providing encryption and/or decryption. Also available are solutions that implement any mode of AES; from the basic cipher modes such as AES-CBC, AES-CTR, AES-CFB and AES-OFB to the more complex combined modes, such as AES-GCM and AES-CCM.

All of our high performance RAM-less AES solutions are available in versions for use in Microsemi (Actel) RTAX and RT ProASIC3 FPGA, which are the most popular devices for use in space applications. The cores are also available in specially optimised versions for Altera and Xilinx space qualified FPGA devices. In common with all Helion IP cores they have been designed with the target technology firmly in mind to yield the most efficient results.

To find out how our RAM-less AES solutions can be used in your particular application, please contact Helion, we'll be happy to discuss the available options with you in more detail.

Measured Area and Performance
Example figures for 256-bit key AES encrypt

MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Tiny+ AES >30 Mbps 1130 tiles
MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Standard AES >160 Mbps 2418 tiles
MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Fast AES >500 Mbps 5540 tiles

Example figures for 256-bit key GCM enc/dec

MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Tiny+ AES-GCM >30 Mbps <3000 tiles
MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Standard AES-GCM >160 Mbps <5000 tiles
MicroSemi RTAX (-1) Fast AES-GCM >350 Mbps <9300 tiles

Please remember these are just some examples from a suite of AES solutions we have available, so if you are looking for even higher rate RAM-less AES cores, specific decryption operation, or maybe support for other technologies, please contact Helion for full information.


For more detailed information on this or any of our other products and services, please feel free to email us at helioncores@heliontech.com and we will be pleased to discuss how we can assist with your individual requirements.

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