“Flying laptop” space probe is a real Transformer
After launch a space probe won’t do much else than what if was programmed to do (except crash and burn). If a probe’s mission is to detect asteroids, it can detect asteroids and that’s it. The space probe nicknamed the “flying laptop”, however, will be able to transform into different probes for different missions. For this purpose, the probe will be packed with a host of instruments, sensors and gizmos.
The probe would be able to work in those different configurations by using field-programmable gate arrays, rather than the standard inflexible microprocessors. But the FPGA’s may be sensitive to bombardment from cosmic rays, which is a bummer for a space probe that would, presumably, be sent to space – where cosmic rays are ubiquitous.
The probe still mostly exist in the head of Toshinori Kuwahara, of the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and will remain there until the transforming probe get some shielding. The “flying laptop” is still hoped to be launched by 2012.
Via New Scientist.