Radiation Shielding Simulations for Small Satellites on Geostationary Transfer Orbit
Abstract: The emergence of small and affordable satellites has led to rapid growth in the number of launched satellites over the past two decades. To save costs, small satellites often use mass-produced electronic components not explicitly designed for the radiation environment of space, which reduces reliability and makes them unsuitable for higher orbits. Improved radiation protection would enable small satellites to operate in high radiation environments and increase their reliability. This work investigates how small satellite electronics can be protected against the high radiation environment of geostationary transfer orbit on the example of the Foresail-2mission. Foresail-2 is a planned 6U CubeSat mission to the Earth radiation belts and is intended to use consumer-grade electronics components. In this harsh environment, most semiconductor devices require radiation shielding. The Space EnvironmentInformation System of the European Space Agency was used to analyse expected particle spectra along the planned orbit through the radiation belts. These particle spectra were then used in Monte-Carlo simulations based on the Geant4 particle transport toolkit to simulate the performance of different shielding configurations. Several thousand multilayer shielding configurations were simulated to optimise the material composition and layer structure of multilayer shielding. The best multilayer configurations against the combined proton and electron spectra of the Earth’s radiation belts use materials with low proton numbers on top of materials with high proton numbers and can significantly outperform conventional aluminium shielding. However, the usage of alternative materials might introduce significant overhead in the design and manufacturing of the satellite structure. Additionally, the influence of satellite structure geometry and openings in the shield was analysed. Even a 1 cm2 opening in the shield can increase the total ionising dose received by electronic components over a mission lifetime by more than an order of magnitude. In conclusion, the work recommends an aluminium body of 6 mm or equivalent multilayer shielding for the Foresail-2 mission to reduce the radiation level to a tolerable level for consumer-grade electronics, while openings in the satellite body should be avoided or covered up with additional shielding.
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