Space Radiation Environment and Impact for IC Technologies

7 January 2015

On 3 December Professor Craig Underwood from the Surrey Space Centre gave a detailed account of the challenges faced by designers of electronic equipment for use in space, especially that pertaining to space satellites.

Professor Craig Underwood

Not only do they have to worry about weight, cost and performance but also about the long term effects of different kinds of radiation.
These include space plasmas – charged particles streaming from the Sun ( these charged particles  also circulate inside the magnetosphere) and  ionising radiation.
The ionising radiation arises from three sources:
1. The Van Allen Belts – geomagnetically trapped radiation.
2. Galactic Cosmic Rays – primarily protons and heavy ions from deep space sources.
3. Solar Particle Events – protons and heavy ions associated with solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
In addition there are secondary sources of ionising radiation, including: induced radioactivity, nuclear reaction products and bremsstrahlung (X-rays).
Solutions involve a combination of shielding, device choice and software techniques such as, “memory washing” or “memory scrubbing”, where memory contents are read, corrected and written back on a regular basis.
The talk ended with the usual stimulating and searching questions from the floor and equally excellent explanations and clear answers from Professor Craig Underwood.