Space Radiation Protection

COURSE NO.: 1130


This course provides a broad technical treatment of the principles and techniques of nuclear (ionizing) radiation
protection within the context of future space missions (both human and robotic). Special attention is drawn to the
fact that ionizing radiation and its biological effects pose a major challenge to the future of human space flight. For
crewed spacecraft outside the Earths magnetic field, the main element of this risk, other than the sporadic and
unpredictable large energetic solar particle events (SPEs), is constituted by the highly charged, energetic (HZE)
particles in galactic cosmic rays. Astronauts exposed to ionizing radiation in space have an increased risk of genetic
mutations or contracting cancer later in life. This risk of experiencing deleterious biological effects increases with
the radiation dose and with the length of exposure. Crew exposure guidelines for extended missions to Mars and at
a lunar surface base will be discussed within the framework of NCRP Report No. 98, Guidance On Radiation
Received In Space Activities. The effect of the space radiation environment on sensitive equipment and spacecraft
components is also treated. As a special feature, this course also introduces the major aspects of aerospace nuclear
safety - the critical discipline dealing with the safe use of either radioisotope or nuclear reactor sources on future
space missions to the Moon, Mars or beyond.


Specialized lecture notes accompanied by the instructors (co-authored) text: Space Nuclear Power, the text: Introduction
To the Space Environment (by T. Tascione) and NCRP No. 98, Guidance On Radiation Received In Space Activities.


This seminar will serve space mission planners, aerospace engineers and astronaut candidates who need to have a general
technical understanding of the radiation environment of outer space and how it might impact future extended missions on
the lunar surface, to Mars, and beyond. Ionizing radiation cannot be sensed by the human body, yet it clearly poses a major
limit to the establishment of a permanent human presence in space.


The general characteristics of nuclear (ionizing) radiation and how it interacts with living matter, as well as important
spacecraft components. The types and levels of ionizing radiation that may be encountered during future long-duration
space missions - with special emphasis on lunar surface operations and expeditions to Mars. Radiation countermeasures.
Recommended exposure limits for future space activities. General principles of aerospace nuclear safety as applied to
future missions involving nuclear energy sources.


  1. Introduction to Space Radiation Protection.

    The nature of space radiation environment both natural and human-made. How radiation exposure may
    limit long-duration lunar surface missions, expeditions to Mars and beyond. The impact of ionizing radiation
    on spacecraft components. Technical concerns and safety guidelines when a space mission (crewed or robotic)
    uses a nuclear energy source for power or propulsion.

  2. Fundamentals of Nuclear Radiation.

    Characteristics of ionizing radiation. Radioactivity and radioactive decay. Radiation interaction with matter.
    Biological effects of ionizing radiation. Radiation detection and measurement. Acute radiation syndrome.

  3. The Natural Space Radiation Environment.

    The Earths trapped radiation belts. Solar flares and solar particle events (SPEs). Cosmic rays, including HZE particles.

  4. Human-Made (Artificial) Space Radiation Sources.

    Radioisotope power and heating systems. Space nuclear reactor systems (flown or projected). Radiation environment
    associated with a nuclear weapon detonated in space.

  5. Impact of Space Radiation Environment on Aerospace Missions/Operations.

    Human (crew) exposure limits and guidelines for a variety of mission scenarios including: space station duty, sortie
    to geosynchronous orbit, lunar surface missions and Mars expeditions. Radiation effects on sensitive spacecraft
    components, including single event upsets.

  6. Fundamental Principles of Nuclear Safety in Space.

    The use of nuclear energy sources (radioisotope and/or reactor) in space missions. Past experience of the US and
    Russia (formerly USSR). General principles of aerospace nuclear safety. International aspects of space nuclear
    source applications. Specific safety issues associated with nuclear propulsion systems to Mars.

  7. Contemporary Space Radiation Protection Strategies.

    Latest approaches to radiation protection during extended space flight. Radiation countermeasures. Responding to
    solar flare emergencies. Radiation protection strategies for lunar surface operations. Safety principles for future Mars
    missions, including proposed missions that use nuclear energy sources for power or propulsion. Levels of acceptable
    space radiation-exposure risk versus radiation protection measures (e.g. shielding).


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