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NSPO and NTU Cancer Center Sign Memorandum of Cooperation for Space Component Radiation Testing

With the advent of the space economy, NSTC is committed to the development of the space industry and related technology, and therefore promotes the entry of Taiwan-manufactured space products into supply chains. Furthermore, NARLabs' National Space Organization (NSPO), as a part of NSTC, aims to enhance Taiwan's capabilities in space component testing, and on Sept. 30 signed a memorandum of cooperation with National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH)'s Cancer Center. The NTU Cancer Center will provide proton therapy equipment to simulate high-energy proton radiation that would occur in a space environment, thereby assisting domestic manufacturers with conducting radiation tests for electronic space components.

NSPO Director General Jong-Shinn Wu stated that after the promulgation of the Space Development Act, NSPO has been given greater responsibility to promote the development of Taiwan's space technology and industry, in addition to running existing space programs and research missions. Among its expanded responsibilities, the building up of testing capabilities and the development of radiation test specifications are crucial to the space industry, as they will assist in the selection of radiation-resistant space components. In the past, electronic space components developed in Taiwan had to be sent abroad for radiation testing, which is time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, NSPO combined the strengths of Taiwan's industry, government, academia, research, and medical sectors to build up the capability to conduct the tests independently. This will significantly lower the cost of radiation testing, reduce the inconvenience of transporting personnel and equipment, and increase flexibility in testing schedules and projects.

In 2019, NSPO signed a memorandum of cooperation with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou and Chang Gung University, and in 2020, it joined hands with these two institutions, as well as the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research of the Executive Yuan's Atomic Energy Council, Integrated Service Technology Inc. (iST), National Tsing Hua University's Nuclear Science and Technology Development Center, and the Institute of Physics of Academia Sinica to jointly establish the Taiwan Space Radiation Testing Consortium. In the beginning of 2022, NSPO also signed a memorandum of cooperation with Taipei Veterans General Hospital. Through these collaborative efforts, NSPO has been able to meet demand for proton, photon, and heavy particle radiation testing. However, with the increase in the number of tests, proton radiation testing capacity also needs to be expanded. Cooperation with the NTU Cancer Center is expected to relieve the testing load and meet the needs of domestic manufacturers.

NSPO explained that the components of artificial satellites are subjected to integrated testing, which simulates various environments from the Earth to outer space, including violent shaking during rocket launch, high-frequency sonic vibration, vacuum environments, and intense temperature cycling. NSPO's integrated testing facilities are equipped to assist manufacturers with such tests, but simulating radiation in a space environment requires collaboration with other parties.

In outer space, there is a lack of atmospheric protection, and fast-moving protons and heavy particles can easily damage electronic components, causing issues from short circuiting to major function loss. Therefore, these electronic components need to be tested to ensure that they can withstand the threat of particle radiation and successfully fulfill their missions in space. In outer space, protons account for 90% of all high-energy particles.

According to Dr. Kuo Sung-Hsin, Director of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the NTU Cancer Center, the latest generation of proton therapy equipment is expected to be available at NTUH in 2023. It will feature the most advanced superconducting cyclotron, high-resolution pencil beam scanning technology, and FLASH ultra-high dose rate beam quality. Not only does this equipment provide the most effective radiotherapy for medical use, but it is also suitable for testing and verification of space components.

The superintendent of the NTU Cancer Center, Dr. James Chih-Hsin Yang, stated that in addition to medical research and the space industry, high-energy proton irradiation can also be applied to the electronics, defense, and communications industries, especially in the rapidly developing Internet of Things (IoT). Such testing is also very helpful for improving the reliability of automotive devices and medical electronics. Currently, the NTU Cancer Center is working with several professors from the NTU Department of Electrical Engineering and Department of Engineering Science to develop a domestic platform for verifying semiconductor component/circuit radiation resistance in space environments. In the future, NSPO will join them to help lay important foundations for the development of the aerospace field in Taiwan.