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Att flyga SpaceShip 2 med rymdturister genom norrskenet från Kiruna. Space Radiation effects on suborbital space tourists above Kiruna
The Swedish Space Corporation is discussing establishing Kiruna as a spaceport for suborbital space tourism vehicles such as SpaceShip 2 now being developed. It is expected that such vehicles will be able to reach 130 km altitude, possibly at the same time as an auroral display is going on in the so-called E-region of the ionosphere – where space tourism vehicles will actually pass.
Three main sources of radiation in space
– Trapped radiation, mainly protons and electrons
– Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR), high-energy nuclei, mostly protons
– Solar Particle Events (SPE), protons from coronal mass ejections (10
MeV to 1 000 MeV).
In the auroral zone there is also electron precipitation that causes aurora. This precipitation is affected indirectly by SPEs. Also the shielding effect on GCR and SPE of the earth’s magnetic field is lower at high latitudes than near the equator. Also, the hull of vehicles like SS2 may provide different protection from SPEs than normal manned space vehicles. These factors make it necessary to compute the level of radiation exposure of crew and passengers.
Such a calculation is needed to back up qualitative assessments already made that there is no inherent danger from radiation in flying aboard vehicles like the SS2 in the auroral zone.
In addition, electron precipitation in the auroral zone may cause differential charging of the exterior of vehicle like the SS2 since it does not possess an all-metal surface. On the other hand, the dense plasma at these altitudes may quench such charging.
Make an inventory of all sources of radiation (including flux and energy levels) during the flight of a suborbital space tourism vehicle over Kiruna and answer the following questions:
– Will vehicles like the SS2 ever be affected by trapped radiation?
– What is the dose of GCR compared to flights on commercial airliners?
– What could be the expected dose from SPE’s during a flight of vehicles like SS2? How much shielding does the hull of vehicles like SS2 provide?
– What part of the SPE event could possibly affect passengers if the flight operations centre is on-line with space weather services just
before the ascent of a space tourism vehicle?
– How much and fast do SPEs affect particle precipitation in the auroral zone?
– What is the dose contribution from particle precipitation in aurora?
– What is the expected dose received by crew and passengers – in absolute terms and related to radiation exposure standards?
– How much differential charging of vehicles like SS2 could be expected
in the auroral zone in the worst case? This analysis should take into account the effect of the surrounding plasma in reducing such charging effects.
– What is the probability that differential charging – if at all present – will have any effect on vehicles like SS2?
Data and assistance provided to the the student
– SSC estimates of SS2 trajectory
– SSC estimates of SS2 hull thickness, density and composition
– SSC estimates of SS2 surface characteristics such as conductance and
– Reading materials concerning space radition and its effects.
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