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Single Event Effects Testing

Scope and Description

This topic covers single event effects (SEE) testing of spacecraft electrical, electronic, and electromechanical (EEE) components and assemblies. In orbit, energetic particles interact with spacecraft electronics causing disturbances known as SEEs. These can either be destructive or non-destructive for a particular device, but in all cases have the potential to cause irreversible damage to a spacecraft. The goal of SEE testing is to characterize the SEE susceptibilities of a semiconductor such that its use in a particular radiation environment (i.e. LEO, MEO, GEO, etc.) can be assessed and proper mitigation steps can be taken.

Resources under this topic area are primarily links to testing facilities, SEE testing guidance, and software tools for mapping test data to a component's performance in various space environments.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

  • Depending on the device being tested and the radiation source being used, pre-test packaging modifications may be necessary. This includes die thinning for many flip chip mounted devices and de-lidding/de-encapsulation for unexposed devices. This can be a costly and time consuming step that is easy to overlook. Be sure to assess your devices' packaging and have them modified as needed.
  • The hourly facility cost will more than likely be the majority of your testing budget. To maximize your testing efficiency, a "quick-change" device should be designed to allow devices under test (DUTs) to be swapped out very quickly. Avoid the need for screws, bolts, many connectors, etc.
  • SEEs generally occur very abruptly and require the use of specialized equipment (e.g. high-speed oscilloscopes) to observe a device's response. Use long, scrolling sampling windows to initially detect the magnitude and duration of these responses and then set scope triggers appropriately to capture detailed waveforms.
  • SEE test facilities are heavily shielded. This often requires that test setups implement long cable runs between the device under test (DUT) and test support equipment. It is recommended that power supply sense lines are used to regulate voltage close to the DUT and data interfacing is achieved via Ethernet or USB extenders when practical.
  • When leaving the facility, be sure to export/download all accessible facility logs. These logs are often lost or overwritten by future test teams.
  • After testing is complete, a report detailing the test setup, exposed devices, high-level results, and test data logs should be created. This report should also include pictures, oscilloscope screenshots, and facility generated logs/plots when available/permitted.
  • If the DUT has built-in power saving functionality, ensure this functionality is disabled or the device may automatically toggle the bias of internal hardware during exposure and skew results.
  • Every facility is different and you will never fully know what to expect before you get there. The facilities often run 24/7 and allow teams to arrive as early as the day before to view their testing location. If this is allowed, take advantage of it. This allows for final tweaks to be made to test plans and for missing equipment (ex. power strips, extension cords, etc.) to be purchased prior to the scheduled beam time.
  • SEE testing can be hectic and very repetitive. Automate as much of the testing and data capture process as possible. This will reduce the likelihood of mistakes and improve how efficiently you are using facility time.


Radiation Test Solutions

This website provides information from Radiation Test Solutions (RTS) regarding radiation effects testing. ... They provide a useful introductions to radiation effects, the hazards of the space environment for electronics, and the related testing standards and protocols currently utilized across the industry.

Slide 7 of this NASA presentation includes a comprehensive list of "Key Space Radiation Test Standards". ... Slide 8 includes a table of "Space Radiation Test Guidelines" which references useful guides and best practices related to the TID and SEE testing of EEE parts for spaceflight. This resource also aims to present examples of shortcomings in such test standards resultant from the constant evolution of technology.


This website provides useful links to NASA-furnished radiation effects resources and a list of radiation ... test facilities.

Texas A&M University

This website provides resources related to SEE testing at the Texas A&M University Cyclotron Institute ... REF. The site includes detailed information about the facility's in-air and vacuum setups, the testing/data room, the heavy-ion and proton beams they offer, and the related LET vs. range plots for each beam.

This presentation provides background on space radiation effects on electronics and details regarding ... heavy-ion, LASER, and proton facilities. The slides list both foreign and domestic test facilities and paint a comprehensive picture of SEE testing in practice.

Doug Sinclair et al.

This white paper provides a "Careful COTS" approach to component selection and testing as they both relate ... to radiation effects and smallsat missions. The presented approach is particularly applicable to LEO missions that leverage COTS components.

Software Tool
Vanderbilt University

This web-based software tool is a widely-used and NASA-supported SEE rate prediction utility. The tool ... takes inputs related to a spacecrafts anticipated orbit and shielding, simulates the corresponding radiation environment after such shielding, and then computes a device's SEE rates given its SEE cross-sections.

Kenneth LaBel et al.

This presentation provides an introduction to planning a heavy-ion SEE testing effort. It provides an ... outline for a test plan, a breakdown of test set and data requirements, various facility and logistical considerations, and configuration management tips.

White Paper

This provides guidance on which proton SEE tests are appropriate for a given device under test (DUT), ... orbit, semiconductor process, and application. It contains useful tables and conditional statements which make it easy to identify environment-dependent risks and determine when to conduct proton testing on a device.

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