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PCBA Tech
About the best aerospace printed circuit board connectors
PCBA Tech
About the best aerospace printed circuit board connectors

About the best aerospace printed circuit board connectors

2021-11-11
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Author:Downs

    Gazing at the clear sky at night can be fascinating and even therapeutic. From the safe vantage point of the earth, space seems to be quiet and safe. However, for spacecraft, orbits and interplanetary, the situation is quite the opposite. The space environment will cause many hazards to mechanical and electrical systems. These include radiation, extreme temperatures, and obvious vibrations during flight.

    Electronic systems and PCBAs are generally immune to the external influence of the spacecraft to some extent, but they are not immune. For example, certain radiation particles can actually penetrate any material and pose a threat to the circuit board, mainly to prevent radiation electrons from being used. These hazards have expanded from single circuit boards and components to larger electronic systems, which means that the choice of aerospace PCB connectors is critical to system performance and reliability.

    Let's take a look at the challenges of spacecraft circuit board interconnection and how to make the best choice for aviation PCBA design.

    The challenge of PCB connection in space

    Before discussing the specific challenges of aerospace PCB connectors, it is helpful to understand the working environment of the spacecraft. Space includes all altitudes above or outside the earth.

pcb board

The earth’s atmosphere consists of five layers. With the exception of the mid-level extending from 50 km (31 mi) to 85 km (53 mi), all of these usually consist of platforms that contain avionics or electronics on aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites (the most common aerospace vehicles) system. Each has specific environmental conditions and some of them are dangerous.

    The hazards of PCBA connectors in the space environment

    When operating in space, there are three main hazards for platforms and electronic systems, namely boards and connectors. These are vibration and shock, extreme temperature and radiation.

    1. Vibration hazard

    Vibration is the most concerned issue of all spacecraft. Electric shock occurred during launch. The most destructive effects are fracture or material deformation (possibly instantaneous) and material fatigue, which can cause long-term effects.

    2. Temperature hazards

    For board connectors, the danger of extreme temperatures is usually more of an internal problem than an external problem. For example, during launch, temperatures above 3,000°C (or close to 6,000°F) may occur near the rocket engine. These exceed the PCBA temperature limits and apply to most materials used in avionics systems. Therefore, isolation and thermal control systems are critical airborne spacecraft.

    3. Radiation hazards

    The most dangerous hazard in space may be high-energy ionizing radiation, which may appear in any Earth’s atmosphere beyond. Certain radiation particles can penetrate virtually any material and cause charges to accumulate on conductive elements or dislocation of atoms, thereby affecting the function of the device. Similar to vibration and shock, single event effects (SEE) or problems may occur.

    Once you understand the hazards of aerospace PCB connectors, a set of guidelines will help you make the best choice.

    There are many PCBA connectors available, and choosing the best type for your application is not a simple recommendation. The selection of connectors cannot be done in isolation. It is necessary to understand the type of connector of the PCBA or electronic device that your circuit board must be connected to in order to optimize signal TX/RX and power transmission. There are also some physical issues, such as housing clearance and wiring, and alignment of cables or connector holes.

    In addition, because the connector is a circuit board component, it must comply with the aerospace industry standards for PCBA manufacturing. This compliance includes ensuring that the testing requirements for adequate space-level connectors are met. Therefore, the best way to choose aerospace connectors for your design requires you to incorporate all of the following:

    Precautions for the selection of aerospace PCB connectors

    1. Regulatory requirements

    Connectors used on aerospace platforms must meet the material requirements specified below EIA/ECA-364-18B, the standard EIA-364-13E for mating and unmating, as mentioned, the continuity during mechanical shock EIA-364- 27C and other test programs based on the installation environment.

    2. External environmental conditions

    For external cables and connectors, temperature range and radiation exposure are the main considerations.

    3. Internal environmental conditions

    Internal environmental issues include temperature range, humidity, environmental EMI, and external radiation that may penetrate the interior of the spacecraft.

    4. Operation requirements

    For most spacecraft, electronic systems including connectors cannot be repaired or replaced. Therefore, clear service life operating requirements must be established and used when selecting the best connector.

    Working in space can be dangerous; strict regulations set by the aerospace industry must be met. The main considerations that influence the connector decision include evaluating the internal and external environment of the spacecraft, and whether PCBA is part of a mission-critical system.

    In addition to the above considerations, parts supply chain management can also be a major issue.

    In Beat Automation, we work with the most reliable suppliers in the industry and adopt a digital data supply chain to track and monitor components from suppliers and throughout the build process. This reliable supply chain can ensure component availability, safety, and compliance with aviation regulations and QMS tracking requirements.

    To help you start building the best path for the circuit board, we provide you with information about DFM inspection and allow you to view and download DRC files easily. If you are a user of Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro, you only need to add these files to the PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we provide DRC information in different CAD formats and Excel.

    If you are ready for manufacturing design, please try our quotation tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want to learn more about choosing aerospace PCB connectors for your design, contact us.