Irish technology is scheduled to fly today aboard Artemis 1, the first spaceflight of NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to return astronauts to the moon in 2025.
The launch from Cape Canaveral, postponed last Monday because of a hydrogen leak in one of the launch vehicle’s four engines, is scheduled for some time between 6.17pm and 8.17pm Irish time today.
On board are five radiation detectors called Radfets (Radiation Sensing Field Effect Transistors), developed by a team of scientists from the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork with support from the European Space Agency (ESA).
“We gain credibility from (collaborating with) the largest space administrations in the world, and the largest commercial private space exploration companies in the world use our equipment,” said Bradley Wrigley, CEO of Varadis, which was founded in 2019 to leverage Radfet technology.
The Radfets will monitor radiation levels throughout the six-week mission – which will see Artemis 1 orbit the moon and deploy 10 CubeSat satellites before returning to Earth and landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Artemis 1 is an unmanned mission. This is followed by a manned lunar flyby, Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 aimed at landing astronauts on the moon.
The Radfets are believed to be critical to the success of the Artemis missions, which will return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.
Manufactured in Ireland, the detectors closely monitor the levels of radiation to which astronauts and equipment are exposed.
The Radfets are tiny, with the entire section weighing around 150 grams and containing sensors designed to work on the nanometer scale.
Radiation can affect the operation of electronic equipment and is known to have human carcinogenic effects at sufficiently high levels.
On Earth, humans are largely protected from the worst effects of solar radiation by the protective shield of the atmosphere. However, in space, beyond the atmosphere, astronauts are exposed to direct solar radiation, so measuring their exposure levels is important. Radfet technology was invented in the 1990s by Tyndall scientists led by Dr. Russell Duane, Dr. Nikola Vasovic and Dr. Aleksandar Jaksic developed.
Back then, ESA funded the team to develop a small, easy-to-use dosimeter to monitor radiation on satellites.
The Cork-based team built a device, a radfet, that was relatively cheap, small and robust, and required no power to detect radiation. The device was also designed to be easily integrated into electronic systems.
On Earth, Mr. Wrigley said, there are plans to use radfets as sensors to measure the radiation doses people receive during radiation therapy and for radiation dose management when people receive a CT scan.
There are also plans to use the devices to monitor the wide range of medical equipment that has been sterilized with gamma radiation, Mr Wrigley said, as well as to monitor equipment at power plants.
“It’s a phenomenal story for UCC, for the European Space Agency and for Enterprise Ireland who have been incredibly supportive of Tyndall and the team that built this,” said Mr. Wrigley.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/one-giant-leap-for-irish-tech-ucc-team-part-of-nasa-moon-mission-41958041.html A giant leap for Irish technology – the UCC team is part of the Nasa Moon mission