Space Enhanced Plastic gives designers a new solution for emerging low-Earth orbit commercial applications


One of the more exciting aspects of the emerging new space market is the launch of high-volume low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites that are small and economically feasible, but also radiation-tolerant and reliable. These satellites enable expanded communication and connectivity around the world. Unlike the traditional satellite market, where the majority of missions are in geosynchronous orbit up to 22,236 miles from Earth and expected to last more than 10 years, LEO satellites orbit much closer to Earth, not more than 1,300 miles away. Because they’re relatively easy to replace, they generally have mission lives for less than seven years.

The major challenges in electronic design for LEO satellites – all while meeting strict budgets and maintaining competitiveness – are:

  • Using smaller, more integrated components to reduce board size.
  • Finding devices with short lead times for quick-turn designs.
  • Having electronic components capable of enduring the harsh conditions in space.

New Space Enhanced Plastic (Space EP) portfolio

integrated circuit icon Meet LEO satellite needs with radiation-assured plastic ICs in our new Space Enhanced Plastic portfolio

TI recently launched a new Space Enhanced Plastic (Space EP) portfolio of products, in addition to its current portfolio of more than 250 Qualified Manufacturers List Class V (QMLV) hermetic-space-grade devices. The Space EP portfolio comprises plastic devices designed for LEO satellites with short mission lives.

For designers new to the space market, there are specific challenges in space that products designed for terrestrial markets do not address, including:

  • Radiation performance.
  • Controlling process and material variations typical in commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices.
  • Thermal cycling as satellites move around Earth.
  • Outgassing from plastic packages, which are not hermetically sealed.

TI’s Space EP qualification process addresses these challenges and removes the need for high-risk upscreening methods sometimes used for this market. Upscreening is the practice of testing a part electrically or environmentally for use outside of datasheet specifications. Upscreening without a full understanding of the “recipe” of a device and its test vectors can lead to field failures and a false sense of security that the satellite will function for the mission duration.