The dawn of the space age is often considered as a direct response to heightened competitive political and military rhetoric from major global superpowers in the latter part of the previous century. But when government involvement in space increased in the U.S. in the 1980s, so did the unexpected accidents and disasters. Remember the Challenger accident in 1986 that forced the Department of Defense to look for alternatives to the Space Shuttle? Consequently, there grew a need for inviting and sponsoring private players as a means to mitigate technology-related risks, which in turn has paved the way for space commercialization.
As the years went by, and the space industry matured, companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX ushered in the next era of space commercialization, leaving the traditional players such as United Launch Alliance (ULA) and others behind. Now, as the commercial competition increases in the space industry among both traditional and non-traditional players, they need to start focusing on strategic financial goals and successful spacecraft designs, from its physical structure right down to the smallest electronic components selected. Helping companies with radiation-qualified designs and suitable electronic component selection to carry out their missions successfully, is Colorado Springs, CO-based company, Radiation Test Solutions, Inc. (RTS).
RTS offers comprehensive spacecraft design analysis along with complete radiation testing solutions to validate the customer’s spacecraft. This enables predictable product performance in the customers’ target environment.
“We have combined our skills, decades of experience, and specialized equipment to help our customers mitigate design and mission risk for products used in space and other radiation harsh environments,” says Malcolm Thomson, the President of Radiation Test Solutions, Inc. (RTS). Started by Mike Tostanoski to fulfill the perceived need for an agile radiation test and analysis organization, RTS houses an analysis and testing team that examines the design of a spacecraft and then provides consulting to alleviate the risks associated with radiation exposure.
Further, RTS can advise on the materials that can help reduce radiation and performs testing on components to qualify if they are suitable for the intended mission. In certain cases, where clients would prefer to utilize a COTS component that does not have any radiation-tolerant data associated with it, the RTS team can perform the testing to provide the information needed to decide whether that desired component is suitable.
Electronic component design and manufacturing, from the core silicon to the final packaging are important factors when companies are specifically designing rad-tolerant components. RTS partners with aerospace electronic component manufacturers and government contractors to help test and qualify these “rad-hard by design” products. With years of combined industry experience, RTS’ aerospace electronics engineers work in conjunction with the clients’ team to refine concepts and validate designs through rigorous testing procedures. They perform spacecraft radiation analysis and also analyze analog circuits and high-speed digital circuits to find electrical, optical, or thermal solutions that enable the clients’ products to perform in the harsh radiation environment of space.
RTS provides state-of-the-art environments for radiation effects testing of electronic devices for aerospace applications with the ability to perform the majority of the testing in-house, which is unparalleled in the industry. The company’s cleanroom laboratory meets classification, compliance, and security measures required for radiation effects testing on electronic devices and materials. “We are extremely versatile and offer a complete range of services to our clients. Our more traditional, larger clients often just rent our sources and perform their tests while others need us to help educate and provide complete turnkey solutions,” Thomson adds.
RTS has contributed to the success of hundreds of missions in both the traditional and the new space industries, with both commercial and government programs. The company’s wide range of radiation effects testing services provides an affordable and convenient solution for both commercial and government industries looking to simulate the effects of ionizing radiation on electronic systems and materials. Further, RTS’ single event effect (SEE) testing and reports aid in the appropriate selection of electronic components, thereby improving the long-term mission success.
Having carved a unique niche in the space industry, RTS plans to expand its geographical footprint and is investing in a state of laser-based SEE testing equipment to complement its traditional SEE testing. “We are always looking at new technologies and methodologies to reduce cost, improve efficiency, and better serve our customers. This will pave our innovation path for the future,” concludes Thomson.