SPCE program to overcome power limitations in space

The rapid proliferation of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) is expanding space capabilities important to both government and industry. As ever-increasing demand strains the operational constraints of LEO satellites, DARPA’s new Space Program for Electronics (SPCE) aims to improve useful energy efficiency in harsh space environments.

Energy consumption in space generates heat, which can only be dissipated by radiation. This type of temperature control limits the maximum operating power that the satellite can consume. The useful power is further reduced due to the inefficiency of the point load (POL) converters. The primary function of POL converters is to supply power at a much lower voltage than the high voltage main satellite power bus for payloads. These low-voltage applications include embedded microsystems that perform computing and other electronic functions.

Modern space POL converters consist of radiation-resistant high-voltage switching transistors and radiation-resistant passive and active circuit elements to survive the challenging space environment. These components, which undergo intensive development and testing processes to resist radiation damage, are inferior in performance to their counterparts designed for non-radiation applications such as terrestrial systems. The latter can use faster and more advanced components, but the radiation hardening process reduces the energy efficiency of POL in space to only 60%, severely limiting the satellite’s capabilities and battery life.

Improved energy efficiency in the harsh, radiative space environment is necessary to meet the demands of new, increasingly advanced mission capabilities, as well as to extend the lifetime of permanent LEO constellations. The goal of the DARPA SPCE program is to improve the performance of space POL systems by developing high-voltage, radiation-tolerant transistors and integrated circuit technologies with low loss, high voltage, and radiation tolerance.

“SPCE will use a combination of materials and device development, combining advanced materials of different types and compositions – or heterogeneous material synthesis – and new device designs. This will help create radiation-tolerant power transistors for space that offer performance competitive with ground-based, state-of-the-art wide-bandgap semiconductor power transistors,” said Jason Wu, DARPA’s program manager for SPCE. “With proliferation in LEO, 60% efficiency is no longer enough.”

According to Wu, if successful, the SPCE breakthroughs could extend system life and create new mission opportunities for persistent LEO constellations operating in challenging space environments.

The SPNO program consists of three program stages. The 20-month first phase will focus on developing radiation-tolerant high-performance high-voltage transistors, while Phase 2 focuses on developing low-loss integration and Phase 3 aims to demonstrate a high-efficiency conversion circuit.

Additional information can be found at Broad agency ad.

Links by topic

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Space War News at

Thank you for being here;

We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow, but maintaining revenue has never been more difficult.

With the rise of ad blockers and Facebook – our traditional sources of income through quality network advertising – continues to decline. And unlike many other news sites, we don’t have to pay – with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Publishing our news takes time and effort 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful, then please consider becoming a regular supporter or make a one-time contribution for now.

Contributor to SpaceDaily

A $5 bill is billed once

credit card or PayPal

Monthly Fan of SpaceDaily
$5 billed monthly

PayPal only

AFRL breaks ground on new Fortress Lab space lab

Kirtland AFB NM (SPX) Nov 18, 2022

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 16, 2022, to begin construction of the 6,200-square-foot, $4.5-million Electronic Radiation Resistance Research Facility for Space and Strategic Systems, or FORTRESS. million facility located next to the AFRL Spacecraft Office’s Deployable Structures Laboratory. The facility is designed to enable AFRL researchers to research and develop solutions for reliable, high-performance electronic components with … read on SPCE program to overcome power limitations in space

Back to top button