Electronics and Space

  • Thread starter TheDreamer
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I have been wondering for a while about how electronics are effected in space and what can be done to combat any adverse effects.

My dream, get a homemade satellite into space. I don't need people telling me how impossible of an idea this is to accomplish, I simply came for answers.

The only thing I know is that in a weather ballon rig that was let loose a camera gave out after about an hour and a half due to battery complications or something of the sorts, this just made it into the stratosphere...

Thank you all!
 

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I have been wondering for a while about how electronics are effected in space and what can be done to combat any adverse effects.

My dream, get a homemade satellite into space. I don't need people telling me how impossible of an idea this is to accomplish, I simply came for answers.

The only thing I know is that in a weather ballon rig that was let loose a camera gave out after about an hour and a half due to battery complications or something of the sorts, this just made it into the stratosphere...

Thank you all!
Not to worry. Your dream is as serious as it gets and I respect that. The electronics issues are strictly depending on how high you go.

I used to work in IC survivability/reliability for military space craft applications. http://www.cti-us.com/pdf/HistoryEEESpacePartsinUSA.pdf" [Broken]. I was involved in a lot of the leg work for the creation/adoption of QML mentioned in this document (MIL-I-38535 specifically).

The big environmental issues include vacuum, heat/cold in general but also fast temperature cycling (e.g. seconds to minutes between 125C and -55C and then back to 125C), vibration and radiation.

You may have heard/seen how ICs and other components have different operating temperature ranges depending on whether they are "rated" for commercial, industrial and military. There is actually a rating above conventional military called "Class S" which is even more extreme than "standard military". Standard military is -55C to +125C while commercial is 0C to +70C. Space applications are part of the reason for the wider range.

Most electrical components were designed presuming "air" operation with standard air pressures. When you go to vacuum, things like plastics start outgassing volatile components like plasticizers which can both weaken the plastic but also react with heat or radiation to form corrosive chemicals that are now floating around other spacecraft components and which can affect reliability.

The most exotic threat is radiation. The real reason no one has gone to Mars, for instance, is space radiation - really nothing else. And not because the electronics can't be designed for it but because humans can not be adapted for it. One solar flare and you give every man onboard an assured 100% lethal dose of radiation in a matter of minutes to hours. Radiation can damage electronics in many different ways depending on the technology and the type of radiation. Challenging but manageable with enough money.

Now the "nice" part of space is Low Earth Orbit or LEO. Within the Earth's magnetic fields for some shielding and partially in the outer extent of the atmosphere (there is some "air drag" on most things orbiting in LEO). This is where the Space Shuttle operates exclusively.

LEO is also at the top range of where you'd operate using a balloon launch system. It turns out the radiation levels aren't that much of an issue - certainly the stratosphere is almost sea level in comparison to space shuttle altitudes.

So for a balloon-based, the primary worry is likely cold mostly. Distant second is some vacuum effects, then maybe heat, then finally radiation with vibration not really being a problem (usually its from rockets used for launch).
 
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russ_watters
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Note also, the thermodynamics of high altitude flight in a balloon are completely different from space. The air at 100,000 feet is still there and it is cold, so things will cool rapidly via convection. In space, there is no air, so the only cooling is by radiation. Balancing radiation from the sun and radiation from the earth against the radiation of the spacecraft to achieve a proper equilibrium is a tricky endeavour.
 
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