Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1963
Date of Award
MS in Aerospace Engineering
Kira J. Abercromby
Beyond the protective confines of Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere, spacecraft are subject to constant bombardment by high-energy charged particles originating from our Sun in the form of Solar Particle Events (SPEs), and from outside the solar system in the form of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs). The harm these particles do can be reduced or mitigated outright through radiation shielding. Because protons and other charged particles comprise most of these radiation particles, strong magnetic fields could be generated around spacecraft to deflect incoming charged radiation particles. This thesis investigates the performance of specific configurations of toroidal superconducting solenoids to generate magnetic fields that deflect incoming energetic protons via the Lorentz force. Bulk material shielding configurations using various thicknesses of liquid water are similarly investigated, as are combination shielding configurations combining the best-performing toroidal shielding configurations with a small bulk material shield surrounding the spacecraft.
The water shielding configurations tested included shields of uniform thicknesses from 1 cm to 10 cm surrounding an Apollo CSM-sized cylindrical candidate spacecraft. Water shielding was found to be very effective at reducing the SPE dose, from a 86\% reduction at 1 cm of water to a 94\% reduction at 10 cm. However water shielding was found to be minimally effective against the much higher energy Galactic Cosmic Ray protons, with no dose reduction at 1 cm and a paltry 1\% reduction at 10 cm.
The toroidal shielding geometric configurations tested consisted of either 5 or 10 primary toroidal shields surrounding the candidate spacecraft, as was the addition of smaller nested toroidal shields inside the primary toroids and of toroids on the spacecraft's endcaps. The magnetic field strengths tested were 1.7 Tesla, 8.5 Tesla, and 17 Tesla. The best geometric configurations of electrodynamic shielding consisted of 5 primary toroidal shields, 5 total nested shields placed inside the primary toroids, and 2 total shields on the spacecraft's endcaps. The second best geometric configuration consisted of 10 primary toroidal shields plus two total endcap shields. These configurations at 1.7 Tesla reduced the SPE dose by 87\% and 87\%, and reduced the GCR dose by 11\% and 10\%. At 17 Tesla, these configurations both reduced the SPE dose by 90\%, and reduced the GCR dose by 76\% and 61\%. Combining these two configurations with a 1 cm-thick shield of water improved performance against SPE protons to 95\% and 93\% at 1.7 Tesla, and a 97\% and 96\% reduction at 17 Tesla. GCR dose reductions decreased slightly.
Passive material shielding was found capable of providing substantial protection against SPE protons, but was minimally effective against GCR protons without very thick shielding. Electrodynamic shielding, at magnetic field strengths of 1.7 Tesla, was found to be similarly effective against SPE protons, and marginally more effective against GCR protons. Combining the best toroidal shielding configurations, at magnetic field strengths of 1.7 Tesla, with water shielding yielded high protection against SPE protons, but still marginal protection against GCR protons. Increasing the magnetic field strength to 17 Tesla was found to provide very high protection against SPE protons, and to significantly reduce the radiation dose from GCR protons. Of all shielding configurations tested, only those electrodynamic configurations with magnetic fields of 17 Tesla were able to reduce the GCR dose by more than half.