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Juno arrives at Jupiter with radiation-hardened electronics

25 July 2016

BAE Systems’ RAD750 single-board computer helped the Juno spacecraft travel 2 billion miles to study our biggest planetary neighbour.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL - Caltech

With a magnetic field 20,000 times stronger than that of Earth, Jupiter presents a hostile environment for any nearby satellite electronics. Despite the challenging conditions, on July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno satellite established orbit around the massive gas giant to study its structure and evolution, thanks in part to BAE Systems' radiation-hardened RAD750 single-board computer.

After a journey of nearly five years and 2 billion miles, Juno will spend the next 20 months exploring our biggest neighbour, using its suite of scientific instruments to look for evidence of a solid planetary core, map the planet’s intense magnetic field, and measure the amount of water in the atmosphere.

Over the course of Juno’s 30-plus orbits around Jupiter during the next year and a half, the spaceship will receive a dose of radiation stronger than 100 million dental X-rays, which would be lethal to today’s typical microelectronics. To help protect its sensitive electronics from the intense electromagnetic waves, the spacecraft is fitted with a protective titanium vault with walls about 1cm thick. That’s where the RAD750 and other critical electronics components reside.

The RAD750 processor serves as the main computer for Juno, operating at 132MHz with 128MB of DRAM local memory. While those numbers may not seem impressive by Earth standards, unlike its terrestrial counterparts, the rad-hard RAD750 processor can withstand radiation doses a million times stronger than a fatal human dose.

“We were pleased the Juno team turned to us when they designed a satellite that could stand up to Jupiter’s extreme conditions,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, director of Space Products & Processing. “The RAD750 computer is known for its ability to withstand the rigors of deep space and maintain operation despite massive doses of radiation.”

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