Intel Licenses Pentium Processor Design Technology to U.S. Government for Space and Defense Needs.
The agreement saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in microprocessor design costs and provides the government with a nearly tenfold increase in processing power over the highest performing technology in use today.
In a press conference attended by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Dan Goldin and others, Intel said it would license the design to the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, which is responsible for microelectronics research and development. Sandia will develop a custom, radiation-hardened version of the Pentium processor for use in satellites, space vehicles, and defense systems. Radiation hardening is required to protect systems and applications from radiation, such as cosmic rays, which affect the reliability of conventional electronics.
"The Pentium processor design will offer tremendous performance, flexibility and reliability for critical government applications," said Craig Barrett, Intel president and chief executive officer. "This agreement allows the government to apply the vast research and development activity that Intel has undertaken for the commercial market to their mission critical needs."
Richardson heralded the agreement as a model of industry and government cooperation: "This is a unique opportunity to significantly advance the state-of-the-art in space and defense electronics. This cooperation between the Department of Energy and Intel will save taxpayers millions of dollars in developmental costs and will speed up the availability of chips that will help support defense and space needs in the next century. We're proud to be working with Intel on this important venture."
The DOE's Sandia National Laboratories, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will collaborate on the Pentium processor redesign to meet each agency's radiation-hardened microprocessor requirements. Some of the applications will include earth satellites, space probes, missile defense, and other advanced military systems.
"The five generations of chips that we have hardened have been essential elements in earth satellites, the Galileo mission, missiles, nuclear weapons, and in other applications where radiation degrades both the performance and reliability of conventional electronics," said John Crawford, Sandia Labs' executive vice president. "We are proud to be partnering with Intel, NASA, the AFRL, and NRO to produce a rad-hard version of the Pentium processor. If we had to pay to license the Pentium technology, government costs would go up considerably."
In recent years, the rapid pace of design innovation for commercial integrated circuit applications, like personal computers, has outdistanced the budgetary ability of military and space users to design comparable performance integrated circuits for radiation environments.
The Pentium processor is one of the most popular computer chips in the world. Developed by Intel at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, it can run more software -- including applications, development tools, and diagnostic tools -- than any other chip ever designed.
The licensing agreement highlights a long-standing relationship between Intel and DOE's Sandia National Laboratories in the development of advanced technologies. Intel Chairman Emeritus Gordon Moore, who also participated in today's event, was instrumental in advancing the current agreement and directed the transfer of the first Intel microprocessor designs to Sandia more than 18 years ago.
Intel provided similar rights to Sandia in the 1980s for the Intel 8085 and 8051 microcontrollers. Intel also built the world's first teraflop (one-trillion-operations-per-second) computer -- the fastest in the world at the time -- for Sandia under government contract in 1995. There have been numerous other cooperative research and development projects over the years.
Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. Additional information about Intel is available at www.intel.com/pressroom.
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