Satellite view of Earth

Introduction. Radiation Hardness Assurance (RHA)

Space radiation environment can lead to extremely harsh operating conditions for on-board electronic box and systems. The characteristics of the radiation environment are highly dependent on the type of mission (date, duration and orbit).

A rigorous methodology is needed to ensure that the radiation environment does not compromise the functionality and performance of the electronics during the system life. This methodology is called hardness assurance (RHA). It consists of those activities undertaken to ensure that the electronic piece parts placed in the space system perform to their design specifications after exposure to the space environment.

Object of the Research

Spacecraft missions require evaluating potential radiation damages, appropriate design to prevent these damages, as well as radiation hardness testing of critical components – traditionally performed at large accelerator facilities. However, the physical properties of the particle beams provided by accelerator facilities are different from those in the natural environment – like the radiation belts of the Earth – therefore the possibility to do fully realistic tests by such facilities is limited. Since a couple of years, it was realized that laser-plasma acceleration of particles may provide a new and efficient tool for radiation hardness testing, under similar conditions to the natural environment. However, the energy of the accelerated particles scales with the power of the laser, and particle energies in the MeV to tens of MeV range – like the ‘killer electrons’ in the radiation belts – require laser powers in the TW to PW range.

Such facilities started to become available only recently, and Romania is at the forefront of this field: a 1 PW power laser at CETAL is now in commissioning phase, while the upcoming ELI-NP infrastructure, presently under construction, will comprise two arms, each one delivering 10 PW of laser output power. The LEOPARD project will establish a Centre of Competences in radiation hardness testing, able to exploit these state of the art laser infrastructures, as well as the skilled human resource available in Magurele.