One of my task as a software engineer was to implement architecture of errors raising and handling. During research I discovered concept of “soft errors” – unexpected change of program instruction or data in memory. “Soft errors” are named “soft” because they can be easy repaired by rewriting corrupted bits, and they do not corrupt system. I started investigation what are the reasons of “soft errors” whats leaded me to space radiation and effects which it makes inside electronic systems. Because I feel anxious when I don’t deeply understand problem which I work on, so I’m started dig in books and in Internet. I found book “Cosmic Rays” by Bruno Rossi and I was impressed with phenomenon which source is still unknown and which is presents everywhere on Earth and above it.
Our world is being bombarded by elementary particles from Deep Space and from Sun. The particles interacts with matter and makes it ionized. This phenomenon has accompanied the Earth from its beginning, but it was discovered recently, in the 1912. Space radiation is common on Earth like air and water, it is a part of our live. Our body, our environment and our technical stuff are under influence of radiation from The Universe.
Computers are threatened
Because space radiation is so common we have to accept the fact that it has impact on our computer systems. In 18 May 2003 unexpected bit flip in computer memory changed voting result in Belgium. So space rays can rarely disturb systems on ground level, but the problem is much more serious on higher altitudes where radiation level is extremely high. In this harsh environment “soft errors” are more frequent, moreover other, more destructively effects can occur. In case of spacecrafts missions the problem is so important, that specials analyses have to be done during mission planing, to ensure that “on board computers” will operate reliable.
Engineering delivers solution to reduce negative effects of cosmic rays on computer systems. We can produce radiation hardness hardware, add shielding over electronic devices or make software resistant for unexpected problems – make it fault tolerant. Nowadays privet companies have started to explore space and reducing cost of space mission has become crucial. Making software fault tolerant is the cheapest solution to build reliable computer systems for spacecrafts.
Mission of spaceradiation.eu
On my blog I want to present informations about building software for spacecrafts. I will share my own thought based on my experiences with space industry and software engineering. Beside blog, the webpage will contain informations about space radiation: its research history, structure, effects and countermeasures. I hope this page become a place with useful informations about software in space industry.