Softcore processors are an attractive alternative to using expensive radiation-hardened processors for space-based applications. Since they can be implemented in the latest SRAM-based FPGA technologies, they are fast, flexible and significantly less expensive. However, unlike ASIC-based processors, the logic and routing of a softcore processor are vulnerable to the effects of single-event upsets (SEUs). To protect softcore processors from SEUs, this dissertation explores the processor design-space for the LEON3 softcore processor implemented in a commercial SRAM-based FPGA. The traditional mitigation techniques of triple modular redundancy (TMR) and duplication with compare (DWC) and checkpointing provide reliability to a softcore processor at great spatial cost. To reduce the spatial cost, terrestrial ASIC-based processor protection techniques are applied to the LEON3 processor. These techniques come at the cost of time instead of area. The software fault-tolerance techniques used to protect the logic and routing of the LEON3 softcore processor include a modified version of software implemented fault tolerance (SWIFT), consistency checks, software indications, and checkpointing. To measure the reliability of a mitigated LEON3 softcore processor, an updated hardware fault-injection model is created, and novel reliability metrics are employed. The improvement in reliabilty over an unmitigated LEON3 is measured using four metrics: architectural vulnerability factor (AVF), mean time to failure (MTTF), mean useful instructions to failure (MuITF), and reliability-area-performance (RAP). Traditional reliability techniques provide the best reliability: DWC with checkpointing improves the MTTF and MuITF by almost 35x and TMR with triplicated input and outputs improves the MTTF and MuITF by almost 6000x. Software fault-tolerance provides significant reliability for a much lower area cost. Each of these techniques provides greater processor protection than a popular state-of-the-art rad-hard processor.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





FPGA, reliability, SEU, radiation effects, softcore processors, software fault-tolerance, checkpointing, consistency checks, control-flow monitoring, software indicators, duplication with compare, TMR, AVF, MTTF, MuITF, probability modeling, hardware fault-injection