Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) plastic encapsulated microcircuits (PEM) are candidate-packaging technologies for spacecraft due to their enhanced performance, lower weight and lower cost. Much of the electronics used in space applications would be considered obsolete by everyday standards. This is primarily due the cost and time required for full space qualification. In order to gain the performance available in today’s electronics, COTS PEMs offer a viable path. PEMs can weigh half as much as their counter part ceramic packages. A lighter package results in a smaller overall payload for the same board functionality, a concern of critical importance for space missions because the payload mass dictates the launch vehicle requirements. Costs can be potentially reduced by using screening, accelerated testing or partial qualification techniques to complement the existing commercial qualification as well as by the reduced package materials costs. Assessing the risk associated with potentially lower reliability devices, engineers within the commercial and aerospace industries are using trade-off and risk analysis to aid in reducing spacecraft system cost while increasing performance and maintaining high reliability. In this paper we will outline the issues facing the use of COTS PEMs for spaceflight hardware from the aspect of both the electronic active devices as well as their packages. Finally, we will provide some guidelines for their use.

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