ARMAS detects galactic radiation on Blue Origin flight

ARMAS detects galactic radiation on Blue Origin flight

VAN HORN, TEXAS. Space Environment Technologies successfully executed a suborbital mission of its ARMAS instrument reaching space with Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship flight on December 11, 2019.

Space Environment Technologies successfully executed a suborbital mission reaching space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship. The New Shepard NS-12 flight made the highest altitude measurements to date for the Automated Radiation Measurements for Aerospace Safety (ARMAS) program and measured the radiation environment deriving from Galactic Cosmic Rays. The ARMAS Suborbital mission launched from Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site at 11:53 a.m. CST on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, reaching an altitude of 106 km with a flight duration of 10 minutes, 16 seconds.

The ARMAS program has developed real-time monitoring technology to manage radiation risks for commercial aviation and commercial space transportation crew and passengers. The ARMAS Suborbital mission was developed by a team led by Principal Investigator Dr. W. Kent Tobiska of Space Environment Technologies. ARMAS uses an innovative approach with dosimeter sensors linked to ground-based servers that result in advanced space radiation research and improved aviation and space-flight safety.

“The Blue Origin New Shepard flight with ARMAS fills in a final piece of the puzzle for understanding and managing the radiation environment at all altitudes. It gives us information for achieving full operational management of radiation hazards extending from the Earth’s surface to the top of the atmosphere. We can now confidently plan for reduced radiation exposure to commercial aviation passengers as well as commercial space flight customers starting in mid-2020,” said Dr. Tobiska.

While in flight, ARMAS dose data are retrieved in real-time. For systems with Iridium satellite links or WiFi, the data are downlinked to the ground and assimilated by NASA’s Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety (NAIRAS) model of the global radiation environment. As ARMAS data are ingested into NAIRAS, the accuracy of radiation dose rates along air and space flight paths improves. The goal of ARMAS is to improve air and space traffic management by monitoring global radiation “weather” and allowing commercial air and space traffic to avoid higher radiation areas. One ultimate objective of this program is to reduce crew and passenger radiation exposure by providing the information to flight service operators so they can fly in lower radiation regions or spend less time in higher radiation locations. Accurate real- time monitoring of the dynamically changing radiation from galactic cosmic rays, solar flares, or the Van Allen radiation belts is an example of space weather services managing an environment that affects the health and productivity of a technologically advancing society.

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NS-12 landing with ARMAS payload at WTLS