Memory Upsets and the South Atlantic Anomaly

Image provided courtesy of M. A. Shea, Geophysics Directorate, Philips Laboratory
When a low flying spacecraft encounters the South Atlantic Anomaly, it can be immersed in an enhanced cloud of high-velocity electrons and ions. These particles penetrate deeply into the spacecraft, impacting sensitive electronics and producing false signals in memory cells. This can be particularly dangerous when these memory upsets occur in control systems or decision-making logic circuits. The image shows the distribution of memory upsets experienced by UOSAT-2. They cluster strongly over South America. Scientists and satellite operators try to shield instruments and computers against the penetrating particles and limit the use of these types of systems while drifting through the South Atlantic Anomaly.

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