Peregrine Semiconductor, a fabless provider of high-performance radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs), has announced that its UltraCMOS Phase Locked Loop (PLL) frequency synthesizer and prescaler devices were designed into six Globalstar mobile communication satellites that were launched into orbit on February 6. Built by Thales Alenia Space in France, the low-Earth orbit satellites transmit audio and data communications for Globalstar’s mobile voice and data customers worldwide.
Peregrine’s PLL and prescaler enable communication in sixteen C- and S-band transponders in the system, which connects end users with terrestrial communication networks via vehicle-mounted mobile devices, as well as fixed terminals, such as those used for rural telephony. The devices feature extremely low phase noise and Single Event Effect (SEE) immunity—attributes enabled by the insulating properties of UltraCMOS process technology—as well as low power, small form factor, and light weight.
“Our products have nearly 20 years of commercial space flight heritage in some of the most high-profile missions, and we’ve considered Thales Alenia Space an important partner in our endeavour to provide market-leading RF performance in the most demanding radiation-rich environments,” said Dave Shepard, vice president of Peregrine Semiconductor’s High-Performance Solutions business unit.
Single Event Effects are errors that are caused by naturally-occurring space-based radiation. There are two primary types of SEEs. Single Event Upsets (SEUs) are non-destructive and can be corrected. Single Event Latchups (SELs), on the other hand, are often catastrophic, resulting in permanent damage and requiring, at a minimum, a power-down to recover. SELs can occur when a high-energy particle strikes a semiconductor device, causing a short circuit from power to ground within the device. RFICs manufactured using UltraCMOS technology do not contain the bulk parasitics found in regular CMOS devices, making latchup impossible.
Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology is an advanced RF Silicon-On-Insulator process that uses a synthetic sapphire substrate—a near-perfect electrical insulator. This substrate enables low parasitic capacitance, high signal isolation, excellent broadband linearity, and inherent SEL immunity. These attributes make UltraCMOS well suited for high-reliability applications, such as commercial satellites.