Hi John A. Giurin, good questions! Here’s the answer from one of the electronic engineers over here (Hariprasad Gokul) at TeamIndus.

Yes, the boards that are sent to space are treated differently too than their Earthbound counterparts.

  • Space grade PCBs undergo inspection at every stage of the process, right from choosing the material to the final packaging. For example, the substrate chosen is always a good quality composite material (like FR4).
  • The solders sometimes are made of lead to reduce the chances of Tin Whiskers forming. Tin Whiskers lead to short circuits and arcing. Additionally, all space grade electronics undergo conformal coating, which aids in preventing whisker formation among other things. Very interesting presentation on whiskers here.
  • As far as the actual solder joints are concerned, refer to ‘Chapter 4: Principles of reliable soldered connections’ of this standard book for the manual soldering of high-reliability components. The rest of the document details each step of the assembly process.

If proper care isn’t taken,

  • PCBs will warp in the extreme temperatures.
  • Components will break off from solder joints due to uneven thermal expansion/contraction.
  • Nominal operating conditions and dimensions may change.
  • Tin whiskers may form and short multiple points.

All of this can lead to a mission failure which is why its critical to govern the entire process carefully.

Written by

Science writer passionate about space exploration and the Moon. Words at The Planetary Society, The Wire Science and more. All articles at www.jatan.space

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store