Main sources and radiation composition affecting eigen external atmosphere of a spacecraft with nuclear power plant

Aeronautical and Space-Rocket Engineering

Thermal engines, electric propulsion and power plants for flying vehicles


Аuthors

Kolbasin I. V.

Design Bureau “Arsenal” named after M.V. Frunze, 1-3, Komsomola str., Saint Petersburg, 195009, Russia

e-mail: kolbasin777ivan@mail.ru

Abstract

When in orbit, the spacecraft is affected by natural sources of radiation (solar and galactic cosmic rays, radiation of the Earth radiation belts) and artificial sources (the onboard radiation sources), which affect the spacecraft in a wide range of energies, penetrate through the eigen external atmosphere (EEA) deep into the structural elements, where particles of energies conversion occurs.

The following energies, affecting a spacecraft, relate to the energies of natural origin:

– solar cosmic rays, including electromagnetic radiation (solar radiation) and corpuscular radiation (solar wind);

– galactic cosmic rays, i.e. isotropic cosmic radiation coming from the interior of the galaxy;

– radiation belts of the Earth, namelly radiation of natural origin, formed by the solar wind and the Earth magnetosphere.

The spacecraft onboard equipment is affected not only by sources of natural origin, but there are also artificial ones situated onboard the spacecraft. Nuclear power plant (NPP) is an example of an artificial source that generates a flow of energy that exceeds all natural impacts by its intensity.

Radiation from natural and artificial sources affects the spaccraft through the medium of its eigen external atmosphere (EEA). Since the EEA is not static, but is constantly mixing as the result of the existing of pressure gradients, temperature, and concentration of activated nuclei and ionized particles of atmospheric substances, the induced radioactivity is being carried over the entire surface of the spacecraft with NPP. Gradients of atmospheric parameters also contribute to medium flows formation that transfer activated nuclei to the shadow area created by the radiation protection unit. The exited nuclei are splitting and their transition to new stable states is accompanied by radiation, which leads to the occurrence of induced radiation on the protected spacecraft structure.

The article deals with the main types of radiation that affect spacecraft with nuclear power plants, and gives their classification. Radiation impact of the onboard reactor, which surpasses solar and galaxy radiation by the intensity, forming basic contribution to the radiation doses, being accumulated by the equipment and structural elements, is the most dangerous for a spacecraft with NPP. The rate of the induced radioactivity propagation in the EEA volume and accumulation of critical dose of radiation in both onboard equipment and structural elements from activated and ionized EEA substance has not been determined at present.

In the existing economic conditions, the service life of a spacecraft with nuclear power plant is set within the range of seven years or more, which requires a complex of works to study and account for the intensity of radiation dose accumulation from the EEA.

Keywords:

onboard power plant, eigen external atmosphere, induced radioactivity

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