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CERN launched a cubesat into space to study the effect of cosmic rays on electronics

Specialists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have developed and launched into space the CELESTA cubesat (CERN latchup and radmon experiment student satellite), designed to study how cosmic rays and other charged particles affect the operation of microchips and other electronics.

“If the CELESTA mission is successful, then the Space RadMon device developed by us can be adapted to work inside microsatellites, which are now used to create communication probes. It will allow us to assess their condition and predict when it will be necessary to replace such satellites.”– said CERN researcher Ruben Garcia Alia.

The satellite was launched into low-Earth orbit last night by a Vega-C launch vehicle launched from the CSG launch site in French Guyana. CELESTA, which belongs to the category of microsatellites, is equipped with the only scientific instrument – the Space RadMon radiation sensor.

The instrument consists of a miniaturized version of the ionizing radiation sensors used at the Large Hadron Collider. Using this device, the scientists plan to measure the typical frequency of charged particles hitting the electronics of orbiting probes operating at an altitude of several thousand kilometers from the Earth’s surface.

In this region of near-Earth space, as physicists explain, is the so-called inner Van Allen belt. It is one of two zones in the Earth’s orbit, inside which electrons and high-energy protons accumulate, “caught” by the Earth’s magnetic field. The launch of CELESTA into this region of space will help scientists quickly assess how often charged particles get into microchips and other electronic components of satellites.

The researchers hope the data they collect will help develop systems to estimate the radiation load on orbiting probes and predict when they need to be replaced. This is especially true for fleets of communications satellites, whose electronics are most vulnerable to cosmic ray impacts due to their small size and low cost, Aliya said.

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