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Radiation Shielding in Space Exploration

On of the problems that will be faced by deep explorations of space is protecting the crew from exposure to radiation. This is not an easy thing to defend against. Several approaches have been suggested to deal with this threat. Material, Magnetic
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  Radiation Shielding in Space ExplorationOn of the problems that will be faced by deep explorations of space is protecting the crew from exposure toradiation. This is not an easy thing to defend against. Several approaches have been suggested to deal withthis threat.The three main schools of thought on radiation shielding are: Material, Magnetic and ElectrostaticShielding.Material Shielding has the drawback of requiring lots mass. A major factor for a ship design. The moremass, the more fuel needed to escape gravity and propel the ship. Material shielding protects against thewidest range of cosmic radiation.Magnetic Shielding has weak points at the poles, much like the Earth does, allowing radiation in at thosespots. It also requires a very strong magnetic field, which might have its own ill effects, we don't know yet.Magnetic shielding works best against charged particles.Electrostatic Shielding works by giving the hull a large positive charge, which repel positively charged particles but attracts negatively charged ones. A negative charge on the skin would have the opposite effect.So electrostatic shielding can only protect against particles of a single charge.Radiation Shielding ImprovementsThe key might be to combine the strengths of each of these methods, while reducing their drawbacks. Thiscan give us a reduction in mass and energy requirements over any stand-alone system. Lets start withelectrostatic shielding and how it can be improved.In electrostatic shielding a section of a ship can be given an external charge to repel like charges, but itattracts opposite charges. Both positive and negative particles are a problem in space. Instead of chargingthe outside of the hull around the crew where bombardment from oppositely charged particles would be a problem, move the charged areas to the ends of the ship, away from the crew.Use both a positively and a negatively charged region at opposite ends of the ship, perhaps on extensions toincrease distance from the crew area. This will draw charged particles away from the area between the poles, reducing the number headed for the crew area.This design has an additional benefit. The ship is now an electric dipole of the type known as an  Electret  .This electret dipole is the electrostatic equivalent of a permanent magnet. As we are using the electrostaticsystem to generate the magnetic field, there is no increase in mass or energy requirements for this added protection.A magnetic field will also help to deflect cosmic radiation away from the crew area and towards thecharged poles of the ship where they can be absorbed. This magnetic field does not have to be as powerfulas a stand-alone magnetic field. It only needs to help deflect a particle towards the charged areas at the poles of the ship.Material shielding is last on our list. Its use should be limited to vital areas due to its mass. Plastics like polyethylene fit the bill of being lightweight and providing good protection. Recent work that allows plastics to carry a charge however can make material shielding more effective.We do not want an electric charge on the skin of the main body of the ship. This does not prevent us from placing charged layers within the hull, much like a capacitor, so the electric field does not radiate intospace. With this approach, any charged particles that make it past the other defenses and into the hull, will be slowed down even more than in regular material shielding by the charged layers. Cosmic radiation types  which does not have a charge, like gamma rays, produce charged particles when they encounter materialshielding, and this approach will minimize that danger as well.Design ConsiderationsThe hull should be modular in design with a large number of small sections. This will allow easy repairs tothe hull I the event of damage. Also, if a micrometeorite hits the hull, an electrical discharge between thecharged layers could occur. A modular design will prevent this from affecting the whole system.The positive and negative layers within the hull can be tied into the charged sections at the end of the shipsupplying them with the necessary charge. In this way all three shielding systems are hooked together anduse the same energy, reducing the total energy requirements while keeping the mass at a minimum.If an Ion Drive or other propulsion system that emits charged particles is used, this approach can give us a boost in performance as well. By placing the negative pole of the ship at the rear where the negativelycharged ion stream is ejected, the ship and the ion stream will repel each other, giving a slight increase in performance.If a high intensity radiation event is headed for the ship, the ions normally ejected can be diverted to theshielding system for an additional boost in field strength to protect the crew at these critical times.ConclusionSo by combining all three shielding concepts into a single design, an overall reduction in mass and energyrequirements for protection from cosmic radiation can be achieved.
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