Radiation effects on satellites during extreme space weather events
High‐energy trapped electrons in the Van Allen belts pose a threat to the survivability of orbiting spacecraft. Two key radiation effects are total ionising dose (TID) and displacement damage dose (DDD) in components and materials, both of which cause cumulative and largely irreversible damage. During an extreme space weather event, trapped electron fluxes in the Van Allen belts can increase by several orders of magnitude in intensity, leading to an enhanced risk of satellite failure.We use extreme environments generated by modelling and statistical analyses to estimate the consequences for satellites in terms of the radiation effects described above. A worst‐case event could lead to significant losses in power generating capability ‐ up to almost 8% ‐ and cause up to four years’ worth of ionising dose degradation, leading to component damage and a life‐shortening effect on satellites. The consequences of such losses are hugely significant given our increasing reliance on satellites for a vast array of services, including communication, navigation, defence and critical infrastructure.
Authors: Hands, Alex D.P., Ryden, Keith A., Meredith, Nigel P., Glauert, Sarah A., Horne, Richard B.