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Proton accelerators single event effects test procedure for COTS electronics: approach to reduce cost and time

Alexey Akhmetov

Specialized Electronic Systems (SPELS) / National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (NRNU MEPhI)


Modern COTS electronics are widely used for space missions because it’s difficult to find equivalent space electronics or in some cases space electronics is not available for modern IC’s like FPGAs, SoC, DAC/ADC etc. And nowadays it is a trend to plan space missions with “small” spacecrafts like CubeSats (NanoSats) to reduce cost and time to start mission. So, it’s possible to do single event effects radiation test for COTS electronics at proton accelerators only because it’s faster and less expensive than heavy ion test.

The other reason to do proton accelerator test is a spacecraft orbit: if it’s a low-Earth orbit it’s possible to take into account only proton Van Allen belt, South Atlantic anomaly and Solar protons so proton accelerator test is closer to real space environment. Galactic and Solar heavy ions could be taken into account by means of simple semiempirical models (for example Petersen or Barak models) or focused laser test.

Medical proton facility “PROMETEUS” primarily used for cancer therapy was certified for space electronics radiation test by Specialized Electronic Systems (SPELS, Moscow). The accelerator has proton energy from 30 MeV to 250 MeV with ±0.15% error, minimum proton beam diameter is about 2 mm and proton flux is about 107…109 particles/(cm2×bunch).

The facility has a scanning system and it’s possible to irradiate any part of electronics in 100mm × 700mm area. Scanning system is extremely convenient to irradiate PCB with a large amount of electronics, for example COTS PC/104 electronics (about 10…100 ICs at a board). Irradiation time and therefore cost is reduced in this case. The ability to change proton energy instantly allow radiation engineer to determine single event effect threshold energy accurately. About 100 types of COTS electronics were irradiated at the accelerator with a positive feedback from radiation engineers.

The other proton accelerator applications are total ionizing dose test and displacement damage test because protons are able to cause both effects but this work is in progress.