Spacecraft Shielding
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Manned missions to planets such as Mars require extended missions that will expose astronauts to harmful radiation in the form of energetic particles from solar and galatic sources. Traditional methods for protecting spacecraft and occupants from these forms of radiation involve some configuration of a massive material shield to absorb the energy of incoming particles. For the high energy galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) that astronauts will be exposed to, these so-called passive shields are too massive to be practical and will likely produce showers of secondary radiation that could be more harmful than the GCRs themselves.

Active shields which rely on magnetic (or electric) fields to deflect energetic particles offer a potential solution to the problem. Designing a magnetic shield that is strong enough to deflect GCR particles but weak enough to not harm astronauts is a challenge. Investigating possible solutions involves a combination of electromagnetic theory, numerical analysis, engineering practicality, and an astronaut's sense of exploration.

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Null Field Torus

Figure 1. Magnetic field due to a circular current loop of radius 8 m. Dashed line represents cross section of torus with minor radius or 1.5 m. Red line is magnetic field line that begins at inner edge of torus (6.5 m). Magnetic field is, by definition, tangential to the surface enclosed by the red magnetic field line.

Figure 2. Amperes Law allows us to specify exactly the current density needed on the surface of the red magnetic field line in Figure 1 such that the magnetic field inside the region is everywhere exactly zero.

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Spacecraft Shielding Documents

Early Shielding: '60s and '70s

Levy_61a.pdf (~5 MB) - Radiation Shielding of Space Vehicles by Means of Superconductings Coils. This is the report that contains all the details which form the basis of the hollow conductor.

Levy_61.pdf - Radiation Shielding of Space Vehicles by Means of Superconductings Coils.

Levy_62.pdf and Willinski_62.pdf - Author's Reply to Willinski's Comment on "Radiation Shielding of Space Vehicles by Means of Superconductings Coils".

Bernert_64.pdf - Magnetic Radiation Shielding Systems Analysis.

Levy_64.pdf - Plasma Radiation Shielding.

Levy_65.pdf - Comment on "Mass and Magnetic Dipole Shielding against Electrons of the Artificial Radiations Belt".

Keffer_65.pdf - Experimental Investigation of Packaging and Deployment Characteristics of an Inflatable Toroidal-Space-Station Configuration.

Urban_65.pdf - Shielded region for Axially Symmetric Quadrupole

Levine_66.pdf - Forbidden Regions Produced by Two Parallel Dipoles.

Levy_67.pdf - The Status and Prospects for Plasma Radiation Shielding.

Levine_67.pdf - The Quasi-Hollow Conductor Magnet as a Space Shield Against Electrons.

Levine_68.pdf - Analog Studies of Magnetic Shields.

Levy_68.pdf - Plasma Radiation Shield: Concept and Applications to Space Vehicles.

vonBraun_69.pdf - Will Mighty Magnets Protect Voyagers to Planets?

Levine_71.pdf - An Active Radiation Shield for Cylindrically Shaped Vehicles.

Deployed Shield Papers

Cocks_91.pdf - A Deployable High Temperature Superconducting Coil (DHTSC): A Novel Concept for Producing Magnetic Shields Against both Solar Flare and Galatic Radiation During Manned Interplanetary Missions.

Watkins Thesis - Magnetic Shielding of Spacecraft Employing High Temperature Superconductors.

Cocks_93.pdf - Magnetic Shielding of Interplanetary Spacecraft against Solar Flar Radiation.

Hilinski_94.pdf - Deployed High-Temperature Superconducting Coil Magnetic Shield.

Cocks_97.pdf - Applications for Deployed High Temperature Superconducting Coils in Spacecraft Engineering: A review and Analysis.

Lanzerotti_04.pdf - Active Radiation Shielding in Space?

Buckey_05.pdf - Next Stop, Mars.

Singer_05.pdf - Comment on "Next Stop, Mars".

Buckey_05a.pdf - More on Mars.

2005 NIAC

Parker_05.pdf - Shielding Space Explorers from Cosmic Rays.

Parker_06.pdf - Shielding Space Travelers.

Parker.pdf - Shielding Astronauts from Cosmic Rays.

Shepherd_07.pdf - Comment on "Applications for Deployed High Temperature Superconducting Coils in Spacecraft Engineering: A Review and Analysis" by J. C. Cocks et al.

Shepherd_07a.pdf - Stormer Theory Applied to Magnetic Spacecraft Shielding.

Magnetic Shielding Papers

Townsend_83.pdf - HZE Particle Shielding Using Confined Magnetic Fields.

Spillantini_00.pdf - Radiation shielding of spacecraft's in manned interplanetary flights.


Townsend_03.pdf - Carrington Flare of 1859 as a Prototypical Worst-Case Solar Energetic Particle Event.

Rossi_04.pdf - A Superconducting Magnetic Lens for Solar Rays Protection in Manned Interplanetary Missions.

Townsend_05.pdf - Critical Analysis of Active Shielding Methods for Space Radiation Protection.

Overview Papers

Simonsen_91.pdfRadiation Protection for Human Missions to the Moon and Mars.

NASA Conference Pub. 3360 - Shielding Strategies for Human Space Exploration.

Sussingham_99.pdf - Forty Years of Developement of Active Systems for Radiation Protection of Spacecraft.

Townsend_00.pdf - Overview of active methods for shielding spacecraft from energetic space radiation.

NASA: Can People Go to Mars? 2005

Exposure Papers

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection: Guidelines on Limits of Exposure to Static Magnetic Fields


Setlow_99.pdf - The U.S. National Research Council’s views of the radiation hazards in space.

Schenck_00.pdf - Safety of Strong, Static Magnetic Fields.

Coutgnet_05.pdf - Radiation Exposure and Mission Strategies for Interplanetary Manned Missions (REMSIM).

deVocht_06.pdf - Critical Analysis of Active Shielding Methods for Space Radiation Protection.

Environmental Health Criteria Document 232: Static Fields

GCR Papers


Mewaldt_96.pdf - Cosmic Rays.

Related Papers

Hertweck_58.pdf - (German) Particle Trajectories in the presence of a straight wire.

Smart and Shea.pdf -

Winglee_00.pdf - Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion: Tapping the Energy of the Solar Wind for Spacecraft Propulsion.

Lemaire_03.pdf - The Effect of a Southward Interplanetary Magnetic Field on Stormer's Allowed Regions.

Winglee_04.pdf - Advances in Magnetized Plasma Propulsion and Radiation Shielding.

Kress_04.pdf - Dynamic modeling of geomagnetic cutoff for the 23–24 November 2001 solar energetic particle event.

Smart_06.pdf - A review of geomagnetic cutoff rigidities for earth-orbiting spacecraft.

O'Neill Senior Thesis - Computer Simulations of Radiation Shielding Materials for Use in the Space Radiation Environment.


Michigan Shielding Conference PDF

NASA Space Radiation Shielding Program PDF

2006 Plasma Seminar, Darin Knaus PDF PPT

2007 Plasma Seminar, Simon Shepherd PDF ODP

NIAC Reports


Winglee Phase I - 1 page
Winglee Phase I - final report
Winglee Phase II - 1 page
Winglee Phase II - final report


Slough Phase I - 1 page
Slough Phase I - final report

Plasma Magnet

Slough Phase I - 1 page
Slough Phase I - final report
Slough Phase I - report
Slough Phase II - 1 page
Slough Phase II - report

Plasma Magnetic Shield

Slough Phase I - 1 page

MIT Solonoid

Hoffman Phase I - 1 page
Hoffman Phase I - final report

Electrostatic Shield

Buhler Phase I - 1 page
Buhler Phase I - final report

Announcements - Reports

Annual Report 2004
AO 2007

Student Fellows 07-08

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