NewsSpace Exploration's New Frontier: Advancements in Plastic Packaging Standards

Space Exploration’s New Frontier: Advancements in Plastic Packaging Standards

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In the realm of space exploration, the drive for innovation and curiosity pushes the boundaries of what is technologically possible, while also imposing stringent requirements on the size, weight, and power of space-bound electronics. The margin for error is virtually non-existent, necessitating that designs must be both highly efficient and reliable. The increasing number of space exploration missions, undertaken by both governmental and private sectors, underscores the need for continued collaboration and technological advancements.

Introduction to Qualified Manufacturers List Class P Standard

The development of new standards for space electronics packaging marks a significant milestone in addressing the challenges of space exploration. A notable example is the Qualified Manufacturers List Class P (QML Class P) standard, specifically designed for plastic packaging of space electronics. This standard is crucial for ensuring that electronic components can withstand the harsh conditions of space, including extreme radiation levels. It covers a range of devices, from radiation-tolerant to radiation-hardened, and accommodates both ceramic and plastic packaging options. The introduction of the QML Class P standard is a testament to the collaborative efforts between industry leaders and NASA, aiming to enhance the reliability and efficiency of space missions.

Enhancing Space Computing with QML Class P

One of the primary benefits of the QML Class P standard is its facilitation of advanced computing capabilities in space. By enabling the use of radiation-hardened plastic packaging, this standard allows for more sophisticated data processing directly on satellites and spacecraft. This capability is essential for autonomous decision-making in orbit, reducing the need to relay data back to Earth for analysis. The adoption of QML Class P-compliant components can significantly increase the power efficiency and density of space electronics, crucial for the success of long-duration missions.

Transitioning from Ceramic to Plastic Packaging

Traditionally, ceramic packaging has been the preferred choice for space electronics, meeting a broad spectrum of specifications required by U.S. government agencies. However, the QML Class P standard represents a shift towards plastic packaging, offering a radiation-hardened alternative that addresses the limitations of ceramic options. This shift is particularly relevant in the context of outgassing, a phenomenon where the vacuum and temperature conditions of space cause organic compounds to vaporize and potentially disrupt electronic function. Advances in manufacturing and testing have mitigated these risks, making plastic packaging a viable and reliable option for space applications.

Future Directions and Opportunities

The establishment of the QML Class P standard is a significant step forward in the standardization of space electronics packaging, reflecting the industry’s response to the need for more reliable and efficient solutions. The initiative has brought together over three dozen experts from various fields, highlighting the collaborative effort required to advance space technology. Looking ahead, the continued expansion of the QML Class P certified portfolio promises to provide comprehensive solutions for spacecraft electrical power systems, from solar panels to point of load power supplies. This ongoing innovation in space electronics packaging opens up new possibilities for exploration and discovery, ensuring that the future of space exploration is as boundless as space itself.

Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.