Space Shield

Space environment is hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts due to the various forms of radiation and charged particles emitted from solar flares. These events pose health risks to people and cause damage to electronics and other features of the spacecraft. The events are irregular in magnitude and frequency and thus a dynamic system is required to shield against it. STFC has developed such a system which uses an actively controlled magnetic field which effectively shields the spacecraft and people and instruments within, from charged particles of energies up to 50 MeV.  

IMAGES

             

 

INTRODUCTION

Spacecraft and astronauts are subjected to the hazardous radiation such as high energy photons like gamma rays & X-rays, as well as high energy particles such as solar energetic particles (SEPs). SEPs are composed of protons and electrons with energies between tens to hundreds of MeV. Although these events are typically infrequent, they cause rapid damage, especially to satellites above the earth’s magnetosphere and interplanetary spacecraft.

STFC’s innovative technology uses an actively controlled magnetic field as a shield to the spacecraft. The controller effectively uses the available power supply by varying the magnetic shield in an irregular fashion. Various fluctuation modes are used, such as magnitude, direction and other more complex structural parameters, over timescales of 1 microsecond to a second, based on the features of the particle and magnetic environment around the spacecraft. This fluctuating magnetic field interacts with the background magnetic field creating a complex field line structure which deflects the energetic charged particles away from the spacecraft by multiple small trajectory increments. A plasma injector injects plasma into the shielded volume which further deflects solar particles away from the spacecraft.

The setup includes a source controller and magnetic field source which is arranged to generate a shield magnetic field having average field strength of 10-4 Tesla at the source with strength of 10-7 Tesla at a distance of around 100 m from the source. This field is generated by a multitude of coil elements supported by a 1 kW power supply, with fluctuations generated using a perturbation control algorithm implemented by the controller element. Detectors for solar wind and magnetic field are coupled to the controller so as to adjust the field generated. Such a field would be strong enough to shield from protons having energies of at least 50 MeV.

INNOVATIONS

  • A source controller controls the magnetic field source and provides perturbations of the shield magnetic field in an irregular, a stochastic and a continuous manner by varying current in the coils.
  • An injector element injects material into shield magnetic field and forms high density shield plasma.

 ADVANTAGES

  • The shield is effectively protected from the energetic charged particles.
  • The efficacy is improved through the perturbations introduced into the shield using the source controller.
  • Low energy requirements.

DOMAIN OF APPLICATION

  • Satellites and Space research
Patent Information:
Country Serial No.
United States 12/990420
European Patent Office 10725230.6
China ZL201080013803
Canada 2756650
United Kingdom 10725230.6
Germany 10725230.6
France 10725230.6
For Information, Contact:
Elizabeth Bain
IP Manager
STFC Innovations
+44 (0) 1925 60 3680
elizabeth.bain@stfc.ac.uk
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