Saturday, April 7, 2012

Electrostatic Active Space Radiation Shielding for Deep Space Missions

I am a little surprised that this problem was not well tackled in the past, but then it surely was and the result would have been a compromise in materials.  Here apparently we are utilizing something called gossamer which is surely conducting and likely made of gold to avoid oxygenation.  It will be a conductor and it will be able to set up the electromagnetic fields we will rely on to keep us safe.

I would like to see work on a super conducting skin.  Low skin temperatures are a ready proposition in space.  We are also looking already at producing graphene shells that would be excellent substrates for a skin of super conducting material.  It is also time to develop experience with the concept that will dominate spacecraft manufacture.  It is surprising just how fast this has moved along.

The ultimate protective skin will be the superconducting skin.  This however sounds like it is a good intermediate measure that can get us to Mars.

Electrostatic Active Space Radiation Shielding for Deep Space Missions

Ram Tripathi

Without the advancement of radiation shielding technology, humans will never be able to travel further out into the solar system. In space, solar radiation and galactic cosmic radiation put astronauts at serious risk of damaging their health. Prolonged exposure to radiation can damage human DNA and drastically increase the risk of cancer.

In order to protect future astronauts, researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center are working on different types of radiation shielding technologies. One Research Physicist, Ram Tripathi, has been funded through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program to develop an electrostatic shielding system that bends radiation particles away from spacecraft.

The system concept utilizes structures that employ either a positive and negative charge. Because like charges repel, the negatively charged structures will repel negative radiation (plasma) and positively charged structures will repel positive radiation (ions). By organizing the structures in certain configurations, they can ward off radiation by creating a safe zone for a spacecraft and its crew.

 “At a minimum, it’s 75% more effective than the ideal material shielding, which is an enormous advantage” said Tripathi.

Through validation testing, Tripathi has proven that the concept works. He is currently looking at which configurations will work best and  focusing on developing the technological aspects of the system. He has also identified gossamer as the build material for structures because it possesses many qualities that would benefit the system, most importantly, it’s lightweight.

An electrostatic radiation shield would repel particles and create a safe area for astronauts. 

“Payload is a dictating factor. If payload is not right, if you don’t get off the ground, then you aren’t in business. And gossamer has been successful within NASA, so why not take advantage of that? We are here to take advantage of whatever exists, rather than re-inventing the wheel all of the time.”

By coupling an active radiation shielding technology, like an electrostatic system, with other passive shielding technologies, Tripathi believes a radiation safe environment can be created for astronauts travelling into deep space. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done first.

“This is the golden time for radiation, everything you do here is new because nothing has been done, it’s truly and exciting time.”

1 comment:

nicole denver said...

Radiation Shielding is a good way to lessen the effects of radiation. Radiation has a negative effect to us all.