U.S. Department of Defense Awards $1 Million Contract to Space PhotonicsThursday, April 18, 2013
Space Photonics Inc., a Genesis Technology Incubator client at the University of Arkansas, has been awarded a $1 million, two-year contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop an anti-tamper capability for a type of integrated circuit known as a field programmable gate array.
The technology company, located at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, will focus on limiting electromagnetic emanations — noise levels — in order to safeguard the sensitive information designed into the field programmable gate array, a silicon chip that features reprogrammable digital circuitry. It is unlike a standard microprocessor chip, which has fixed gates that execute a set of functions that cannot be changed.
Field programmable gate arrays, known as FPGAs, are widely used in both military and commercial technologies and can contain a large amount of sensitive information concerning crucial military technologies or other intellectual properties. If an enemy is able to intercept the electromagnetic signal of an FPGA, it is possible to reverse-engineer the design and access stored information.
By dramatically reducing the electromagnetic emanations, the design of the FPGA is effectively protected and the ability to reverse-engineer any programs is mitigated. The technique being developed by Space Photonics requires no external hardware, making it suitable for co-integration with a variety of other anti-tamper or anti-reverse-engineering approaches.
“The use of FPGAs is becoming more and more common in both military and commercial technologies,” said Michael Leary, network electronics manager at Space Photonics. “The technique our team is developing will reduce so-called side-channel attacks aimed at gaining critical program information stored in FPGAs.”
The contract was awarded through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which allows federal agencies to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening small businesses that meet federal research and development needs. The program also is intended to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.
Space Photonics develops, markets and sells high reliability optical communications systems for military and aerospace applications. Customers have included the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and NASA. Products include their patented LaserFire free space optical communications systems; space qualified radiation-hard FireFiber fiber optics, and FireRing high-capacity networks.
All but two of the firm’s 12 employees are graduates of the U of A, including founder Chuck Chalfant, Space Photonics’ president and chief executive officer. He holds a master’s degree in physics from the university.
Chuck Chalfant, president/CEO
Space Photonics Inc.