Aerospace and defense firm BAE Systems is significantly stepping up their efforts towards improving the overall reliability of space and satellite operations through developing stronger radiation-hardening applications. Satellite sensor/guidance technology, more often than not, endures greater challenges in the harsh environment of space with radiation interference being the worst of these perils.

“A charged particle can impact a device and impose significant damage; it can essentially deposit charge into a circuit, causing electronic noise and signal spikes within the device,” says Jim LaRosa, program directorfor space computers at BAE. “This can result in erroneous data or bad commands being passed. Depending upon the situation, the result may be as limited as modifying the accuracy of a sensor input or something that requires a computer reset or even permanent damage.”

BAE Systems offers radiation tolerance technology that’s modified to boost technological reliability. These electronics have previously been utilized in missions ensuring secure military communications, commercial communications imaging, and environmental monitoring. BAE has extensive aerospace experience, having controlled every generation of Mars Rovers and observation satellites.

The rovers are remotely controlled from Earth by operators, who use visual sensors connected to a control station. NASA uses space-borne relay stations to transmit commands to the rover, while receiving data via RF signals. One of the limitations the interplanetary distance imposes, however, is the 20 minutes it takes each command to reach the rover from Earth.

Charged radiation particles from the sun pose a far greater threat to electronics in space, which the Earth gains protection from by its atmosphere. An increase in computing power is needed in space due to the advanced state of sensor technology, which generates such a high volume of data. These sensors can relay more of this data back to Earth through direct processing on a satellite in order to retain the essential bits of data for transmission.

Leaders in the Pentagon and among the space and intelligence communities are very aware of the increase in processing power among space computing, and need to increase reliability to further secure their systems. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (GEOINT) told Congress the spike in space data prompted the organization’s discipline to stretch beyond human interpretation and explanation limits.

If all available data is combined through algorithms, automated processing, machine-to-machine (M2M) learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), they can conceivably automate up to 75 percent of rote tasks performed today. Despite this encouraging statistic, it is worth noting how this would require significant investments in IT formatting, research, and development to be made possible.