Radiation Hardness Testing and Mixed-Field Radiation Effects

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Objective for MPD D.3.4

  • Provide radiation hardness testing capabilities for space environments.

Background: The overall success of future space missions, including spacecraft designed for deep space exploration as well as for extended, near-earth orbits, is strongly predicated on the ability of advanced electronic components utilized in the fabrication of spacecraft and payload instrumentation and control systems to be able to operate at full capacity for extended periods of time within the unique and extremely harsh radiation environment of interplanetary space. Program managers in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) desire to qualify high performance technologies for use in future space-based electronic systems. With a declining industrial base of radiation-tolerant (radiation-hardened) electronic components, space systems engineers are forced to turn to commercially-available parts for needed electronics. As such, these commercially-available devices require careful radiation testing, especially since their reduced size and operating power increases their vulnerability to space-borne radiation.

Existing facilities, such as those at the Naval Surface Warfare Center rely upon antiquated accelerator technology. A new facility with a large enough chamber to hold up to a cubic meter of materials and components is needed. Such facility should be able to expose materials concurrently to three types of space radiation: electron, protons and ultra-violet radiation.

Action Items:

1 – In conjunction with NASA and one of its primary contractors (such as Boeing), design and specify a new radiation exposure chamber for the evaluation of materials, including electronics, to simultaneous radiations as will be encountered in the space environment.

2 – In the meantime, promulgate the capabilities of existing facilities capable of doing radiation hardness testing, such as Naval Surface Warfare Center, Sandia Laboratory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Gaerttner Laboratory, Kent State University NEO Beam.

3 – Promote the interaction among the different irradiation facilities to perform an intercomparison study regarding fluence measurements.

Resource Requirements:

1 – An engineering team comprised of NASA engineers and tier one space contractors will have to be assembled to do a concept design and cost estimate for a new multi-faceted facility for evaluating materials and electronics to be used in space.

2 – An expenditure of <$500,000 should be sufficient to complete a preliminary design study and cost estimate.