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Quality Standards for Satellite PCBs

Key Takeaways

  • Generally, satellite PCBs are indirectly subjected to temperature variations and should be capable of withstanding temperature swings from less than -100°C to greater than 120°C. 

  • Satellites are subjected to high temperature, high-pressure, vacuum environments; under these conditions, satellite PCBs release trapped gases.

  • The AS9100 standard ensures satellite PCB quality that is universally accepted. 


Satellite PCBs support satellite communications

Satellite communication is critical, especially when natural disasters or other emergencies disrupt land-based communications. Radio, television, telephone, internet, mobile, and military applications utilize satellite communication to transfer information.

In satellite communication, information is transferred between two earth stations through a satellite. Depending on the application, communication satellites are deployed on different layers of the earth’s atmosphere. Satellite PCBs and the electronics installed in aerospace objects that are deployed into specific layers in space have specific requirements due to their layer composition and climate.  

Satellite PCBs 

Earth’s atmosphere is classified into layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, ionosphere, and exosphere. Satellite deployment extends from the thermosphere to the edge of the exosphere. Some satellites are launched into low Earth orbit as well.

Satellite communication is supported by several PCBs. Satellite PCBs enable uplink and downlink actions in satellite communications and play a significant role in receiving information from the transmitter earth station as well as transferring information to the receiver earth station within the satellite’s footprint. Satellite PCBs are crucial in delivering satellite applications such as geo-positioning, remote sensing, navigation, and weather forecasting. 

The Impact of Atmospheric Conditions on Satellite PCBs  

Satellite PCBs are exposed to extreme atmospheric conditions, so their architecture, manufacturing, and quality management should be given the utmost care. The conditions that a satellite PCB experiences vary with the layer to which the satellite is deployed. Generally, satellite PCBs are indirectly subjected to temperature variations, so their assembly should be capable of withstanding these temperature swings–from less than -100°C to greater than 120°C. Satellite PCB material should be selected so that it can handle internal temperature swings without a loss of quality. 


Satellites are subjected to high temperature, high pressure, and vacuum environments; under these conditions, satellite PCBs release trapped gas in a process called outgassing. The condensation of these gases interferes with the normal operation of satellite PCBs. Material with good thermal resistance provides the advantage of preventing outgassing in satellite PCBs. 

Space Debris

The collision of satellites with other celestial bodies or space debris is common. Satellite PCBs should be able to tolerate these collisions. Introducing flex PCBs for satellite applications is an effective solution to ensure satellite PCBs can withstand the effects of these collisions.

The outgassing of materials under vacuum, ultraviolet radiations, and ionizing radiations are some other issues that affect the reliability of satellite PCBs. Once launched, the satellites remain in orbit, so redesigning, replacing, or recalling satellite PCBs is not a viable option. Prior to their launch, stringent measures need to be taken to prevent contingencies and maintain the quality and reliability of satellite PCBs.

Let’s take a look at one standard, the AS9100 standard, that helps ensure the reliability of satellite PCBs. 

The AS9100 Standard

Any PCB employed in space, aviation, or the defense industry should follow standards to ensure it delivers on its intended purpose without failure. A satellite PCB should comply with universal regulatory standards and design objectives to function properly in all application environments.

AS9100 is a global standard issued by the International Aerospace Quality Group to control the quality of products in the aerospace industry. Satellite PCB design, development, and maintenance that adheres to the AS9100 standard ensures a level of board quality that is universally accepted. The AS9100 standard is the quality management system that guides the satellite PCB development process. Following the actions defined in the AS9100 standard provides the qualitative and quantitative framework for satellite PCBs, ensuring these boards work efficiently in harsh atmospheric conditions.

Satellite PCBs are instrumental in creating mission-critical applications, and therefore should be designed, developed, and fabricated to ensure continuous high-performance. Cadence software can help you design satellite PCBs for various applications. Cadence software gives you access to a full suite of PCB design tools that helps you create excellent satellite PCBs with high reliability and safety.

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