Radiation Hardness Assurance


Space Radiation Environments at LEO, MEO, GEO and their Effects on Components and Systems

Michael Wind1, Peter Beck1, Lukas Huber1, Marcin Latocha1, Christoph Tscherne1

1 Seibersdorf Labor GmbH, Austria



Spacecraft in near-Earth orbits are exposed to a complex and harsh radiation environment that poses a great challenge to space mission design. Semiconductor devices are pervasively deployed in analogue and digital applications for earth and space due to being cheap, small, fast, light weighted, and offering high functionality. When exposed to ionizing radiation semiconductor devices are vulnerable to a variety of damaging mechanisms. Exemplarily, radiation accelerates the aging of EEE components, eventually leading to a decrease in performance or to a complete loss of functionality [1]. Effects due to radiation have been observed and investigated for many decades by now and a lot of insight into the phenomena has been gathered and documented in literature ([2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]). In order to face these challenges, it is necessary to understand both the nature and effects of space radiation as well as the damaging mechanism induce by radiation.

The space radiation environments at Low Earth Orbits (LEO), Medium Earth Orbits (MEO) and Geostationary Earth Orbits (GEO) compose of three main types of primary radiation: solar energetic particles (SEP), galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) and charged particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field ([2], [8]). All three types are of different origin, vary greatly in energy and flux and underlie short-term and long-term variations modulated by the sun’s activity [9]. The presentation discusses different types of orbits and the space radiation environments that are associated with these orbits. Characteristics of SEP, GCR and trapped particles are described and their influence on mission design and radiation hardness assurance (RHA) is outlined ([10], [11], [12]).

In addition to the relevant radiation environments in LEO, MEO and GEO an overview is given on the major types of radiation effects, i.e. Total Ionizing Dose (TID), Single Event Effects (SEE) and Total Non-Ionizing Dose (TNID) effects. The basic radiation effects are illustrated that occur in electronics when they are exposed to the different radiation sources. Semiconductor parts being scheduled for operation in a radiation environment, e.g. satellite’s electronics, require a decent knowledge on their susceptibility to the present radiation environment which raises the need for radiation tests. To assure the significance of such test and the comparability of the results testing is typically performed according to standards ([13], [14], [15]). Basic information on test procedures and available test standards is given.

The present talk is intended to give an introduction into radiation environments and radiation effects - the focus is laid on giving a decent overview without going too much into detail.


[1]    Poivey, Christian. „Total Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Dose Radiation Hardness Assurance.“ Short course of NSREC 2017, 17 July 2017, New Orleans. USA. Presentation.

[2]    Holmes-Siedle, Andrew G., and Len Adams. Handbook of radiation effects. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2002.

[3]    Proceedings of the Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference (NSREC) Conference, published yearly in the December issue of IEEE-Trans. Nucl. Sci

[4]    Proceedings of the Radiation Effects on Components and Systems (RADECS) Conference, published yearly by IEEE.

[5]    M. Wind, J. V. Bagalkote, P. Clemens, T. Kündgen, M. Latocha, W. Lennartz, S. Metzger, M. Poizat, Sven Ruge, M. Steffens, P. Beck, Comprehensive Radiation Characterization of Digital Isolators, 16th European Conference on Radiation Effects on Components and Systems (RADECS), Proceedings, 2016

[6]    M. Wind, P. Beck, J. Boch, L. Dusseau, M. Latocha, M. Poizat, A. Zadeh, Applicability of the Accelerated Switching Test Method – A Comprehensive Survey, Radiation Effects Data Workshop (REDW), 2011

[7]    M. Wind, J. V. Bagalkote, P. Beck, M. Latocha, M. Poizat, TID and SEGR Radiation Characterisation of European COTs Power MOSFETs with Respect to Space Application, 15th European Conference on Radiation Effects on Components and Systems (RADECS), Proceedings, 2015

[8]    Santin, Giovanni. „Radiation Environments: Space, Avionics, Ground and Below.“ Short Course of RADECS 2017, 2 Oct. 2017, Geneva. Switzerland. Presentation.

[9]    Viereck, Rodney. „Space Weather: What is it? How Will it Affect You?“ NOAA Space Environment Center, 2007, Boulder Colorado. USA. Presentation.

[10]    ECSS-Q-ST-60-15C. “Radiation hardness assurance – EEE components”, October 2012

[11]    ECSS-E-ST-10-04C. “Space Environment”, November 2008

[12]    SPENVIS - The European Space Agency (ESA) Space Environment Information System (SPENVIS), available online at swe.ssa.esa.int; www.spenvis.oma.be

[13]    European Space Component Coordination, Total Dose Steady-State Irradiation Test Method, ESCC Basic Specification No. 22900, issue 5, 2016

[14]    MIL-STD-750-F Test Method Standard, Method 1019.5, Steady-State Total Dose Irradiation Procedure, Department of Defense, 2016

[15]    European Space Component Coordination, Single Event Effects Test Method and Guidelines, ESCC Basic Specification No. 25100, issue 2, 2014


We acknowledge the insightful talks and presentations of the lecturers of the RADECS and NSREC short courses and the information provided by SPENVIS, ESA‘s Space Environment Information System (http://swe.ssa.esa.int/; https://www.spenvis.oma.be/ ).