Using Plants and Trash to Mitigate Radiation Dose




Marandola, Elizabeth
Wetzel, John
Morrow, Robert

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49th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Galactic Cosmic Ray radiation (GCR) is the ever-present background radiation of space and Solar Particle Events (SPEs) are individual occurrences of increased particle flow. During an SPE, astronauts can move to a sheltered location to reduce the dose received. GCRs are constant so moving to a specified shelter is an ineffective strategy to mitigate radiation dose. One way to help protect astronauts from both types of radiation is to incorporate better radiation protection materials into the outfitting of the spacecraft. Two ways to incorporate better materials into a spacecraft while minimizing parasitic mass are to leverage plant growth systems flown as part of a hybrid life support system and to repurpose materials generated during a mission as shielding. Some materials, such as polyethylene and water, provide better radiation protection than others. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Astro Garden plant growth system contains flexible bladders around the exterior for water storage as well as various layers of plastics. The incorporation of Astro Garden into a crewed habitat creates an intuitive SPE shelter location and placing Astro Garden near a high crew time area could help to protect the crew from GCRs. Another way to incorporate non-metallic materials into the structure of the spacecraft is to create plastic tiles from trash. A Trash Compaction and Processing System (TCPS) heats and compresses acceptable waste products into a plastic encapsulated rigid tile. The tiles take up less space than raw trash and are an acceptable radiation shielding material. The tiles can be placed in desired locations around the spacecraft to reduce GCR dose or they can be used in conjunction with Astro Garden in the SPE shelter.


Elizabeth Marandola, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), USA
John Wetzel, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), USA
Robert Morrow, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), USA
ICES503: Radiation Issues for Space Flight
The 49th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 07 July 2019 through 11 July 2019.


Plant growth system, Hybrid life support, Radiation shelter, Radiation shielding, Trash processing