Fun fact: the actual programs in the spacecraft were stored in core rope memory, an ancient memory technology made by (literally) weaving a fabric/rope, where the bits were physical rings of ferrite material.
At a low level your correct, but you can use error correction and a lot of redundancy to prevent cosmic rays from corrupting solid state memory and still have a lot more than 16K of storage space for a long time.
Hubble, the ISS and other low-orbit satellites are affected by the South Atlantic Anamoly, which funnels down charged particles from the Van Allen belts.
(This /was/ a surprise to the folks who designed Hubble, but the spook satellite people apparently knew all about it . . . and didn't tell the Hubble folks, not even over beer or something. Great win for national security, guys </sarcasm>).
I didn't see an opening bracket for sarcasm so I assume it's before 'Great win'. Were they really surprised by this? Also are they same people that didn't know putting hard drives in space would fail because of the lack of air and had to replace them with SSDs?
I think it's just an understanding of how the underlying physics work. Alpha and beta radiation will cause bits to flip in solid-state devices, because the state is held with electrons. Whereas core rope memory stores that state as magnetic fields in ferrite cylinders. So radiation will basically just bounce right off the giant ferrite cores (giant relative to solid-state semiconductors, that is).
*I am not a physicist, someone correct me if I'm grossly wrong.
Hmm, it's more like any ionizing particle (charged) creates pairs electron/hole, many of them, so that the charge distribution in the pn junctions are altered. Sometimes gamma photons generate Compton electrons in the material that act as delta rays, to the same effect. Heavy particles can alter the crystal structure, inducing defects that may change its properties. Magnetic storage devices don't have polarised junctions and could withstand all this if they didn't include solid state electronics. Radiation hardening techniques and shielding can help a lot.
Its more a cause of the radiation ionizing the underlying semiconductor material. For instance when an electron tunnels into a transistor it can cause strange effects. Look up single event upset and single event latch-up for more information. The SEL is interesting as it causes a transistor to act as a double transistor and start drawing tons of power. At least that's how I understand it.