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Radiation hardness assurance of light emitters such as laser diodes is a primary concern before using such devices in space. In this article, both gallium arsenide (GaAs) and indium phosphide (InP) based laser diodes are theoretically analyzed from a radiation hardness point of view. It has been found that InP based lasers are less sensitive to radiation than GaAs lasers. We will also demonstrate that threshold carrier density is the key parameter to consider when assessing the radiation sensitivity of laser diodes. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.