Protective equipment manufacturer StemRad announced recently that NASA and the Israel Space Agency have signed an agreement for the launch of StemRad’s “AstroRad” radiation protection vest aboard NASA’s EM-1 mission around the moon. AstroRad is the company’s second product, built on the technology of StemRad 360 Gamma, a wearable shield developed to provide protection from harmful gamma radiation.The 360 Gamma protects the pelvis, ensuring survival of critical bone marrow stem cells. The company collaborated with Lockheed Martin to adapt technology for use in space.
Human space exploration missions have been confined in large part to low earth orbit (within 1,200 miles of earth), where earth’s magnetosphere repels the majority of radiation threats, including galactic cosmic rays and dangerous solar storms. When venturing into long, manned deep space missions, the threat of radiation exposure is significantly higher, posing one of the most significant challenges facing NASA as it prepares to launch manned missions to Mars, the company says.
EM-1 is the last test flight before NASA begins deep space manned missions, the first since the Apollo missions. During that flight, the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE) will measure the impact of radiation exposure on humans in deep space. The test will be composed of two Matroshka test dummies, with only one wearing AstroRad.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR) will supply the Matroshkas, which contain thousands of radiation detectors. While EM-1 will not likely encounter a solar storm, the mission will pass through the Van Allen radiation belt—a zone of energetic charged particles that emanate from solar winds—providing an opportunity to test AstroRad in conditions similar to those found during a solar storm.
The AstroRad vest is also expected to be used aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2019 for advanced ergonomic studies in microgravity.
StemRad is an Israeli-American company headquartered in Tel Aviv that develops, manufactures and sells personal protective equipment for ionizing radiation.