PlayStation to Pluto: New Horizons Probe Uses Game Console Chip

By Phill Powell

Now we’ve heard everything: The computing systems of a space probe to a distant planet are powered by the same basic computer chip found in a popular game console.

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The New Horizons space probe traveled 3.6 billion miles to get to Pluto, thanks to a PlayStation chip.

That’s exactly what happened recently when NASA’s New Horizons space probe finished its epic journey to Pluto (now considered a dwarf planet). Its on-board IT was powered by a Mongoose chip, the exact same computer chip found in Sony’s PlayStation 1 game console machine.

A Mongoose Flies to Pluto
When the New Horizons space probe recently completed its fly-by of Pluto, the spacecraft’s onboard computer applications were controlled by a Mongoose-V 32-bit microprocessor.

The Mongoose V (which was developed by Synova, Inc.) is an expanded version of the MIPS R3000 CPU, the same chip that was introduced in the Sony PlayStation.

In 2006, NASA took the MIPS R3000 and tweaked it for use onboard the New Horizons probe. Its primary uses are to monitor sensors, send data and fire the probe’s thruster rockets.

Mongoose_chip
The little computer chip that could: Mongoose chip found in PlayStation 1 and New Horizons probe.

Space for Summer
The New Horizons story shows how the different worlds of technology are colliding, with video game technology helping to power a spaceship.

It sounds like science fiction, but it’s all happening right now, which makes it one of the most exciting times in history…and one of the best times to explore the wonders of space.

Start this summer at a Digital Media Academy space camp, where kids ages 8 to 12 discover cool concepts about space, science and engineering. You’ll never learn more or laugh more than during a week of DMA tech camp. Check it out!

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What are you doing next summer? Come explore rocket science at DMA!