Friday - Dec 15, 2017

What It Takes To Build Electronics For Space


Space has been touted as being the “final frontier” for decades – or since Star Trek first hit the airwaves in 1966. One of the most important considerations when it comes to successfully reaching and returning from space are our technologies. But while our technologies may work fine on earth, those same conditions are not what our technologies would face in space.

Take the average smartphone, for example. If one were to venture into space with a smartphone, if the vibrations did not cause it to break, then the significant changes in temperature would. The lack of air would make it difficult for the smartphone to dissipate heat, meaning it would most likely melt at least one of not all internal components. These are just some of the challenges, which those who design space exploration technologies face.

Heat Dissipation

As mentioned previously, space electronics do not have the benefit of having air to help dissipate their heat. So how do people building these electronics combat this problem?

Through the use of thermoelectric plates. When properly installed, thermoelectric plates have the ability to both cool and heat up your components so that they remain at a steady and workable temperature. Without these plates, however, those electronics would undoubtedly burn themselves out or melt.

The Inclusion of a Sub Processor

Sub processors are often present in systems, which are designed, for space exploration. A sub processor will be able to make “logical” decisions as to which branch paths are still performing its logic functions by cross analysing those data paths while also comparing previous data received from those paths.

In a word, it tells us what we should trust and what we shouldn’t and will provide us with only the most trustworthy and reliable information. When it comes to space exploration, having a backup of a back up of a backup is key to ensuring that the information from a mission is certainly received. Given the risk of venturing into space, this is a worthwhile consideration. Most space electronics are built to have several redundancies, even in the most critical of systems, for this very reason.

Radiation Hardening

Radiation is an important consideration when it comes to space technology and design. Those who are creating electronics for space can try to combat or alleviate the stress of radiation in one of two ways:

a) Creators of these products can shield their electronics box from radiation; or

b) Creators can use radiation protective technology this involves shielding being built into the package of one individual and integrated circuit)

Shielding of any kind is important as it protects your electronics against particles from solar flares. But most of these products do little to protect your electronics against cosmic radiation, which is high in energy.

Radiation hardening is a real and common problem when designing systems for space. Because it is so likely that systems will become negatively affected by radiation, systems will be duplicated and backed up at least twice.