I know that because of the Earth's magnetosphere, we are largely isolated from the influences of the solar winds. But what happens when a probe leaves the Earth's atmosphere and travels inward through the Solar System (like the Venera probes)? How does the solar wind affect the probe? What if it was a vehicle was carrying people? What measures should been taken into account?

  • $\begingroup$ It can fry the electronics. And people on-board. Charged particles are not funny. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jul 24 '14 at 13:59

Of course it affects the probes, as the number and energy of the elementary particles increase as we get higher from the earth in general (even airplanes get higher dose of radiation than cars) and when we pass the outer layers of the earth's atmosphere in specific. Major Engineering conferences take place to discuss this issue, that's why your question is a good one.

Technological challenges appear in the engineering of the material that we may use to protect our equipment of course.

You can have further technical information in this presentation.

  • $\begingroup$ +1, nice link. One minor issue with the link: The 5 to 7 year lag quoted for rad hardened equipment compared to COTS. It's much longer than that nowadays; I would say 15 to 20 years. We get a new rad hardened computing device once a decade or so, and when first released that device might be a decade out of date. By the time we get the next one, it's 20 years out of date. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jul 25 '14 at 10:29


The solar wind was calculated for as far back as the last couple Mariner probes, and the Pioneer and Voyager probes.

Additionally, NASA and ESA also account for light pressure, including reflected IR from on-board thermal sources. The Pioneer Anomaly is the best example of this - a few hundred watts of thermal energy bouncing off the side produced a sufficient thrust to put the Pioneer probe off predicted location by a measurable amount.


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