Misconceptions about space-grade integrated circuits #Space #Electronics @habr_eng

An electronics engineer working in the aerospace industry sees that space-grade chip techniques aren’t common knowledge, and people often have significantly skewed ideas about the reasons behind some devices and decisions. A recent article speaks about some misconceptions related to radiation hardened integrated circuits and the means of their protection against radiation-induced damage.

The most popular theses about radiation hardness of ICs are the following:

  1. Radiation hardened chips are not needed at all. CubeSats are just fine with chips from the nearest store, very ordinary Lenovo laptops work on the ISS without any problems, and even NASA-commissioned Orion onboard computer is based on a commercial microprocessor!
  2. Satellites don’t need computational power, but they need these magical radiation hardened chips, so most of them use very old but extremely robust designs from the eighties, like TTL quad NAND gates.
  3. A thesis that complements the previous one: it is impossible to achieve radiation hardness on modern process nodes. Ionizing particles just tear small transistors apart. So, the use of these TTL NAND gates is not just justified, it’s the only way to go.
  4. It’s necessary and sufficient to use silicon on insulator (SOI) or silicon on sapphire (SOS) technology to achieve radiation hardness.
  5. All military-grade chips are radiation hardened and all radiation hardened chips are military-grade. If you have a military-grade IC, you can safely launch it into outer space.

As one can see, these theses directly contradict each other — which makes arguing on the internet even funnier, especially taking into account that not a single one of them is true.

The article goes in-depth on the subject – you can read it here.


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