Published on December 8th, 2022 | by Bibhuranjan0
Radiation-Hardened Electronics and their Impact in Space Program Applications
Semiconductors are the fundamental components of electronic circuits, with unique electrical characteristics that distinguish them from insulators and conductors. Electrical components are now used in a wide range of applications, from basic timers to the most complicated equipment like satellites and supercomputers.
Radiation-hardened electronics are electronic components that can withstand high level of radiation. Radiation hardening is the process of evaluating the radiation resistance of electronic components for usage in industries such as military, energy, and aerospace.
For space programs, specifically, the demand for radiation-hardened electronic components has increased in recent years as commercial space companies started launching a huge number of satellites for various applications such as Earth observation, remote sensing, and space-based broadband services.
In this article we’ll explore the concept of radiation-hardened electronics and their role in different space applications.
Radiation Hardening – Meaning
The defense, aerospace, and energy industries all rely on radiation hardening, also referred to as rad hardening. The aerospace and defense industries are the primary users of radiation hardening and survival testing.
Prolonged exposure to radiation is widely recognized to inflict serious harm to living creatures, but high amount of radiation may also inflict radiation damage to inanimate objects, particularly electronics.
Ionizing radiation, which includes both directly ionizing radiation like alpha and beta particles and indirectly ionizing radiation like gamma rays and neutron radiation, is extremely harmful to semiconductors, which are the backbone of all contemporary electronics.
Radiation hardening is the process of creating radiation-tolerant electronics and equipment that can withstand high amount of ionizing radiation, such as galactic outer space radiation, X-Ray radiation in healthcare or security settings, and high-energy radiation in nuclear power plants.
Radiation-hardened electronics producers conduct extensive tests as part of their product development procedures to evaluate these components and decide if they are properly hardened.
Satellite and launch vehicle manufacturers have been able to continue operating and survive in high-radiation environments thanks to advancements in numerous electronic components and semiconductors over the last few decades.
Furthermore, the ongoing usage of technical developments in electronics has reduced the size and weight of electronics components.
Since the high-altitude atmosphere of space contains high-level ionizing radiation, semiconductor designers and manufacturers have several obstacles in developing semiconductor devices that can survive the impacts of radiation.
As per a study from BIS research the global radiation-hardened electronics for space applications market is projected to reach a value of $4.76 billion by 2032 witnessing a CAGR of 1.70% between 2022 to 2032.
Noise and signal spikes induced by single-charged particle strikes are the most serious problem created by the radiation effect. As a result, the electrical gadgets used in satellites, deep-space probes, and launch vehicles are inaccurate and operate poorly.
Commercial space businesses have been launching a large number of satellites for diverse applications such as Earth observation, remote sensing, and space-based broadband services, which has raised the demand for radiation-hardened electronic components in recent years.
Furthermore, numerous governments across various areas, such as the U.S., the U.K., and China, are investing in the various space program to launch several satellites and deep-space probes into space, which has raised demands for radiation-hardened electronics components.
For instance, North America accounted for the highest share of in the global radiation-hardened electronics for space applications by value in 2021, owing to a significant number of companies based in the region. According to BIS Research report the trend is expected to continue with North America leading the market during the forecast period of 2022-2032.
The Necessity of Radiation-Hardened Electronics
Electronic components have been built and tested to give some amount of protection from piercing radiation that might cause malfunctions, damage circuits, or lead the electronic equipment to entirely shut down if left unattended.
When the printed circuit board (PCBs) – used to mechanically support and electrically link electronic components) or electronics are deployed in situations where high energy ionizing or space radiation will be present; this protection is required.
In terms of PCB and electronic development, there are three forms of space radiation:
- Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) – electrons, protons, and neutrons that come from somewhere else than the solar system
- High energy solar radiation – solar flares or magnetic energy explosions result in emissions from the sun
- Radiation belts – composed of confined electrons and ions with different energy levels.
GCRs and solar radiation reach the planet regularly; therefore, they are present in all layers of the atmosphere. Low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO) have radiation bands, such as the Van Allen belt, whose form is dynamic.
For mission dependability, subsequent generations of high-performance communication and reconnaissance orbiting satellites use some of the most modern radiation-hardened and radiation-tolerant integral circuits.
Rad-hard electronics are frequently utilized by space agencies, private space companies, and the defense community to ensure persistently reliable effectiveness and longer service life in rough radioactive and correspondingly hazardous environments due to their incredibly low failure rates over several decades.
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