CubeSats are small, low-cost satellites that have revolutionized the space industry. They are typically used for scientific research, Earth observation, and communication purposes. However, CubeSats are exposed to a harsh radiation environment in space, which can affect their performance and lifespan. In this article, we will provide an overview of the CubeSat radiation environment and the measures taken to protect them.
The CubeSat radiation environment is characterized by two types of radiation: galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and solar energetic particles (SEPs). GCRs are high-energy particles that originate from outside our solar system and can penetrate deep into the CubeSat’s electronic components, causing damage and malfunctions. SEPs, on the other hand, are particles that are emitted by the sun during solar flares and coronal mass ejections. They can cause a sudden increase in radiation levels, which can also damage the CubeSat’s electronics.
To protect CubeSats from radiation, several measures are taken during the design and manufacturing process. One of the most common methods is to use radiation-hardened electronic components. These components are designed to withstand the effects of radiation and have been tested in simulated space environments. However, radiation-hardened components are more expensive than their commercial counterparts, which can increase the overall cost of the CubeSat.
Another method to protect CubeSats from radiation is to use shielding materials. Shielding materials can be made of various materials, such as aluminum, tungsten, or polyethylene. These materials can absorb or deflect radiation, reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the CubeSat’s electronics. However, adding shielding materials can increase the weight and size of the CubeSat, which can limit its capabilities.
In addition to using radiation-hardened components and shielding materials, CubeSats can also be designed to minimize their exposure to radiation. For example, CubeSats can be placed in a low-Earth orbit, which is shielded by the Earth’s magnetic field. This can reduce the amount of radiation that reaches the CubeSat’s electronics. CubeSats can also be designed to have redundant systems, which can switch to a backup system in case of a radiation-induced malfunction.
Despite these measures, CubeSats are still vulnerable to radiation. To mitigate the effects of radiation, CubeSats are often equipped with radiation sensors. These sensors can measure the radiation levels in the CubeSat’s environment and provide data that can be used to improve radiation protection measures in future CubeSat missions.
In conclusion, CubeSats are exposed to a harsh radiation environment in space, which can affect their performance and lifespan. To protect CubeSats from radiation, several measures are taken during the design and manufacturing process, such as using radiation-hardened components, shielding materials, and designing CubeSats to minimize their exposure to radiation. However, CubeSats are still vulnerable to radiation, and radiation sensors are often used to mitigate the effects of radiation. As CubeSats continue to play an important role in space exploration and research, radiation protection measures will continue to be a crucial aspect of CubeSat design and operation.