Electronic circuits are the heart of any satellite or spacecraft. The space industry faces several challenges with electronic circuits, which need to be resolved immediately. The main challenge is that satellite buses are designed to operate at low temperatures and high voltages. It leads to issues like the degradation of components and failure due to radiation damage.
This article will learn more about the satellite bus problems and electronic circuit challenges.
The Main Challenges
There are many challenges that electronic circuits face in space. They are used for various purposes, including communication, navigation, and control. Some of the challenges faced by electronic circuits include:
- High Voltage Differences
The voltage difference between the solar panels and the batteries is around 1000V. This makes it difficult to use standard semiconductors in space applications as they can only withstand voltages up to 600V.
- Temperature Variations
Temperature variations are another challenge in space. The satellite temperature range varies from -50 degrees C to +60 degrees C, much larger than the average room temperature range (20-25 degrees C). Therefore, special materials need to be used for the parts of an electronic circuit so that it does not break down when exposed to such significant temperature variations.
Radiation is another major issue for electronics in space as it can cause damage or even wreck them if left unchecked. This radiation comes from two sources: solar flares and cosmic rays. Solar flares are bursts of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Sun, which can cause significant damage to satellites and their electronics. At the same time, cosmic rays are high-energy particles coming from outer space, which can cause extensive damage to electronics if they hit them directly.
The immediate option to solve electric circuits problems related to radiation is to use radiation hardening techniques, such as reducing critical dimensions (CD), adding redundancy, changing materials, and more. But these methods are insufficient because they do not protect against all types of radiation and wildly energetic protons, which cause the most damage in space.
The Electronic Circuit Challenges That an Engineer Overcomes
The electronic circuit is a complex system that is made up of several basic electronic details. It can be built using different electronic components, such as resistors, capacitors, transistors, and diodes. Each of these components has a specific function in the circuit, and together they form a complete unit.
There are several challenges that an engineer has to overcome when designing something like this. One of these challenges is that all of the components used in the circuit must work together to ensure that it performs properly and efficiently.
The resistance value should be correct for each component for them to work together effectively. The amount of current flowing through each component should also be correct, or there will be problems with the entire system’s performance.
Another electronic circuit challenge in a satellite bus is that there must be no short circuits in any part of the system; otherwise, this will cause damage or even destroy parts within the system. Also, every component must have its own ground connection so that unwanted voltage levels are not passed through when switched on or off.
Few Reasons That Are Responsible for the Failure of Electronic Circuits
Electronic circuits can fail in space for a variety of reasons. The primary cause is radiation damage. In space, charged particles from the Sun, high-energy cosmic rays, and the interstellar medium bombard spacecraft electronics.
These particles cause damage to semiconductor devices by knocking electrons out of their orbits around a nucleus. The result is the generation of free radicals that are highly reactive and can cause further damage to the circuit.
Another source of failure is the charging effects caused by magnetic fields generated by solar flares or other sources. Charging currents can flow through conductors in a circuit, causing heat build-up that may exceed the capability of thermal management systems on board a satellite or spacecraft.
Thermal cycling has also been found to be an essential factor in electronic circuit failure. The development of cracks due to thermal cycling may degrade performance significantly over time if not accounted for during design.
These were most, if not all, of the challenges for electronic circuits in space applications. With time, engineers can find ways to overcome these challenges.
Ways to Troubleshoot Electronic Circuits in a Satellite Bus
Now let’s know how to troubleshoot electronic circuits. Well, when you have a problem with an electrical circuit, the first thing you need to do is identify which component is causing the problem. Then, you can try to isolate and troubleshoot it using the following steps:
- Isolate the Power Source
If there is no power going into the circuit, check your fuse or circuit breaker box. If there is power going into the box but none out of it, you may have a bad wire connection between your house and the circuit panel. Check for any frayed wires or loose connections before continuing to troubleshoot further down the line.
- Check All Connections Between Components for Loose or Broken Wires
You may find that some parts of your circuit are getting power while others are not. This means that there is either a bad connection somewhere along the way or a section of bad wiring that needs replacing altogether.
- Check the Circuit Breaker
If a circuit breaker trips, it’s usually because of a short circuit in the house wiring. If that’s the case, you’ll need to determine where the short is and fix it before resetting the circuit breaker.
Troubleshoot each component individually by testing their resistance levels with an ohmmeter (multimeter). Look up how much resistance each element should have on its datasheet before testing it so that you know what’s normal and what’s abnormal (e.g., 0 ohms (open) vs. 1 ohm (short)).
Suppose you’re troubleshooting an electric circuit problem. In that case, it’s important to remember that a circuit can be anything from a single device (like a light bulb) to multiple devices connected in series or parallel. You can read our post on satellite bus details to get familiar with the components and parts of a satellite bus.
The key takeaway here is that modern electronics are coming to space. As technology advances, things like outdated wiring in satellites will become a problem of the past. It’s no longer a question of whether electronic components will be used in satellites; it’s just a matter of when this change will occur. What’s your opinion about this? Feel free to leave your comments below.