A satellite built over eight years by a team from McMaster University in Hamilton is set to lift off on a SpaceX shuttle from Florida on Tuesday.
The unit will study the effects of radiation on astronauts.
The Neutron Dosimetry and Exploration (Neudose) mission was selected for the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Canadian Cube Sat program in 2018 and features a miniaturized satellite to further the understanding of long-term exposure to space radiation.
“This is used to help us study the effects of ionizing radiation on the human body,” said Jonathan Densil, a fifth-year engineering student who began his work with the Neudose team in 2018.
“So as far as astronauts go on long-term missions to the moon and eventually to Mars, we’re very interested in how the radiation affects our bodies long term.”
The payload specifically is a radiation detector, about the size of a loaf of bread, that can distinguish between charged and neutral particle radiation, according to Densil.
It’s to be placed in a small satellite and deployed into space, free-floating.
If it works properly, the device will send real-time radiation measurements back to the team at the university.
Densil explained the device is an “tissue-equivalent proportional counter” that’s basically a gas-filled membrane that emulates a human fat cell with a is “plastic scintillator” distinguishing between charges from a neutral particle of radiation and a sensor that then counts that radiation.
“So we’re basically getting accounts of the radiation dose that a typical human fat cell would experience in orbit,” he told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
The device is the concept of Dr. Andrei Hanu, who came up with the idea while working at NASA as a research scientist.
The satellite, covered by solar panels and charged by sunlight, will be deployed in low-earth orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) and has a life expectancy of approximately one year.
Prior to deployment, the satellite will live for about three to four months in storage to acclimatize to space.
The mission timeline is set to be between one to two years with the device earmarked for burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of it’s life-span.
It’s expected more than 20 members of the project team will be at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch Tuesday.
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