A number of groups have studied reliability and degradation processes in GaAs-based lasers, but none of these studies have yielded a reliability model based on the physics of failure. Unsuccessful development of this model originates from the facts that: (i) defects related phenomena responsible for degradation in GaAs-based lasers are difficult to study due to the lack of suitable non-destructive techniques and (ii) degradation process occurs extremely fast after a long period of latency. Therefore, most of laser diode manufacturers perform accelerated multi-cell lifetests to estimate lifetimes of lasers using an empirical model, but this approach is a concern especially for satellite communication systems where high reliability is required of lasers for long-term duration in the space environment. Since it is a challenge to control defects introduced during the growth of laser structures, we studied degradation processes in broad-area InGaAs-AlGaAs strained quantum well (QW) lasers with intrinsic defects as well as those with defects introduced via proton irradiation. For the present study, we investigated the root causes of catastrophic degradation processes in MOCVD-grown broad-area InGaAs-AlGaAs strained QW lasers using various failure mode analysis techniques. A number of lasers were proton irradiated with different energies and fluences. We also studied GaAs double heterostructure (DH) test samples with different amounts of intrinsic defects introduced during MOCVD growth. These samples were proton irradiated as well to introduce additional defects. Deep level transient spectroscopy (DLTS) and time resolved photoluminescence (TR-PL) techniques were employed to study traps (due to point defects) and non-radiative recombination centers (NRCs) in pre- and poststressed lasers, respectively. These characteristics were compared with those in pre- and post-proton irradiated lasers and DHs to study the role that defects and NRCs play in catastrophic degradation processes. Lastly, we employed focused ion beam (FIB), electron beam induced current (EBIC), and high resolution TEM (HR-TEM) techniques to study dark line defects and crystal defects in both post-aged and post-proton irradiated lasers.