Japan to Support Manufacturing Technology for Space-grade Semiconductors

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
JAXA’s moon probe SLIM at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in June 2023

The government is set to support accelerating technology that manufactures space-grade semiconductors, jointly developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and a startup. The two aim to put the devices into practical use.

With these space semiconductors, the government plans to open new markets with a wide range of space equipment. This includes satellites and space probes equipped with such semiconductors so they can still perform well in space, which endures intense radiation.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The space-grade semiconductor was jointly developed by JAXA and NanoBridge Semiconductor, Inc., a startup established by two NEC Corp. engineers in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2019.

Semiconductors continuously exposed to radiation can cause electronic devices to break down and malfunction. The space-grade semiconductors can withstand about 40 times more radiation than conventional devices, while reducing power consumption by about 10%. About a quarter of the size of existing devices, the new semiconductors can also downsize space equipment.

The government has earmarked ¥750 million of its fiscal 2024 budget plan for the development of relevant manufacturing technology. The government will support technological development to further improve space-grade semiconductors so they also can be used for satellites.

According to the Cabinet Office, 2,368 satellites were launched globally in 2022, about 11 times more than in 2013. Demand for high-performance space semiconductors is expected to increase, and the government will promote the global diffusion of space-grade semiconductors.

JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, which landed on the moon last month, along with other probes are equipped with semiconductors that have enhanced resistance to radiation. However, the processing capability of computers with existing semiconductors still have limitations, placing certain restrictions on space exploration. The new space semiconductors are expected to increase the processing ability of computers that will enable longer and more advanced exploration.