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


Kolbasin I. V.

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



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.


onboard power plant, eigen external atmosphere, induced radioactivity


  1. Akishin A.I. Materialy VIII Mezhvuzovskoi nauchnoi shkoly molodykh spetsialistov “Kontsentrirovannye potoki energii v kosmicheskoi tekhnike, elektronike, ekologii i meditsine” (19-20 November 2007), Moscow, NIIYaF MGU, 2007, pp. 15-19.

  2. Atamasov V.D., Danilyuk A.Yu., Dement’ev I.I. et al. Fiziko-khimicheskie protsessy formirovaniya sobstvennoi vneshnei atmosfery KA pri vozdeistvii vysokoskorostnykh potokov melkodispersnykh chastits (Physical and chemical processes of formation of the SPACECRAFT eigen external atmosphere under the impact of high- speed flows of fine particles), Saint Petersburg, KB “Arsenal” im. M.V. Frunze, 2015, pp. 78-84.

  3. Pudovkin O.L. Struktura i elektromagnitnoe izluchenie Solntsa, 2014-08-17. URL:

  4. Luchi kosmicheskie solnechnye. Veroyatnostnaya model’ potokov protonov. GOST R 25645.165–2001 (Solar space rays. Probabilistic model for proton fluxes, State Standard R 25645.165–2001), Moscow, Standarty, 2001, 10 p.

  5. Veter solnechnyi. Sostav, kontsentratsiya chastits i skorost’. GOST R 25645.136–86 (Solar wind. Composition, particle concentration and velocity, State Standard R 25645.136–86), Moscow, Standarty, 1986, 5 p.

  6. Haffner J.W. Radiation and Shielding in Space (Nuclear Science & Technology). Academic Press Inc., U.S., 1968, 347 p.

  7. Atamasov V.D., Babuk V.A., Nemykin S.A. et al. Yadernye orbital’nye kompleksy (Nuclear orbital complexes), Saint Petersburg, Professional, 2016, 800 p.

  8. Lektsiya po ORB. Predposlednyaya. Obespechenie radiatsionnoi bezopasnosti AES. URL:

  9. Vakh I.V., Dobryakova L.B. Rukovodstvo k prakticheskim zanyatiyam po yadernoi i neitronnoi fizike (Guide to practical classes in nuclear and neutron physics), Sevastopol, SIYaEiP, 2001, 132 p.

  10. Gaponenko O.V., Gavrin D.S., Sviridova E.S. Structure analysis of the strategic plans of the space-rocket industry development by method of space functional and industrial technologies R&D classification. Aerospace MAI Journal, 2019, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 64-81.

  11. Yudintsev V.V. Rotating space debris objects net capture dynamics. Aerospace MAI Journal, 2018, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 37-48.

  12. Donskov A.V., Mishurova N.V., Solov’ev S.V. Automated system for space vehicle status monitoring. Aerospace MAI Journal, 2018, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 151-160.

  13. Razoumny Yu.N., Samusenko O.E., Nguyen N.Q. Optimal options analysis of two-tier satellite systems for near-earth space spherical layer continuous coverage. Aerospace MAI Journal, 2018, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 171-181.

  14. Aslanov V.S., Yudintsev V.V. Docking with space debris employing the unfolding flexible beam-strap. Aerospace MAI Journal, 2018, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 16-24.

  15. Akishin A.I., Novikov L.S. Elektrizatsiya kosmicheskikh apparatov (Electrification of space vehicles), Moscow, Znanie, 1985, 64 p.

  16. Abdurakhimov A.A., Poluyan M.M. Materialy XXV Mezhvedomstvennoi nauchno-tekhnicheskoi konferentsii kosmodroma “Plesetsk”, Plesetsk, 1 GIK MO RF, 2007, pp. 84-87.

  17. Abdurakhimov A.A., Poluyan M.M. Materialy Voenno- kosmicheskoi akademii imeni A.F. Mozhaiskogo, 2007, pp. 26-28.

  18. Nymmik R.A. Izvestiya Rossiiskoi akademii nauk. Seriya fizicheskaya, 1997, vol. 61, no. 6, pp. 1058-1061.

  19. Ishkhanov B.S., Kapitonov I.M., Yudin N.P. Chastitsy i atomnye yadra (Particles and atomic nuclei), Moscow, LKI, 2007, 584 p.

  20. Grew K.E., Ibbs T.L. Thermal diffusion in gases. Cambridge University press, 1952, 243 p. — informational site of MAI

Copyright © 1994-2020 by MAI