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Electronic Radiation Characterization Project (ERC)

Among the most unique aspects of developing systems for space is the performance of electronic systems in the natural space radiation environment. Long and short term radiation effects such as total ionizing dose (TID), displacement damage (DD), and single event effects (SEE) provide aerospace designers’ a myriad of challenges for system design. The radiation hazard that a designer faces is not generic: each mission orbit, timeframe, duration, and spacecraft design (mechanical and electrical) provides differing requirements and challenges to deal with. This hazard varies:from missions with severe requirements that fly in the heart of the Van Allen belts (such as a medium earth orbit or MEO) to avionics systems in the upper atmosphere that are protected from many energetic particle concerns, but still must deal with secondary particles such as neutrons. The thought of an error occurring in the electronics of a manned aircraft or spacecraft is unsettling at best.

With this in mind, NASA’s ERC Project is responsible for supporting NASA’s current and future needs in providing reliable electronic systems in the natural space and terrestrial radiation environments. These systems range from deep space probes with long lifetimes to earth and space science missions to the Space Shuttle short duration missions to avionics in aircraft. In this regard, the ERC project’s roles are to:

  • Provide radiation evaluations and assessments of new and emerging microelectronic and photonic technologies to enhance infusion into NASA missions, 
  • Develop guidelines for technology usage in radiation environments, 
  • Investigate radiation hardness assurance (RHA) issues in order to increase system reliability and reduce cost and schedule.

We work collaboratively with technology developers and users to understand radiation needs, issues, sensitivities, and hardening solutions. The underlying goal of the ERC Project is to aid NASA’s and the aerospace industry’s designers to meet their challenges in areas such as performance, reliability, and resources.