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NASA launches Canadian radiation-detecting satellite into space

A miniature satellite designed and built by students and researchers at a Canadian university has been successfully launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

At just 20 centimeters tall, the CubeSat is the backbone of the NEUtron DOSimetry and Exploration (NEUDOSE) mission, which aims to help scientists better understand long-term effects. exposure to cosmic radiation on people.

“Space radiation is a huge health risk for astronauts,” NEUDOSE team member and McMaster University student Taren Ginther told CTV’s “Your Morning” on Wednesday, “and as we move forward into deep space missions, such as maybe going to Mars, we have to understand that risk.”

The NEUDOSE satellite launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of NASA’s 27th commercial resupply mission and is expected to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday morning.

For members of the NEUDOSE team, who were in Florida to watch their satellite lift off, the moment was eight years in the making. Ginter was among the Cape Canaveral crew and described the moment as incredible.

“The launch couldn’t have been smoother,” he said. “We were all on the beach ready to see it, and luckily the weather was perfect, so around 8:30 last night we saw the Falcon 9 blast off with our satellite.”

Ginter and his team designed and built NEUDOS: using a grant from the Canadian Space Agency’s Canadian CubeSat project. After spending a month or two on the ISS, the satellite will be placed in low Earth orbit, where it will collect radiation data for two years. During that time, it will transmit the data to a ground command center at McMaster University, where it can be interpreted by the research team.

What is unique about NEUDOSE is how it is designed to measure specific particles and how they affect human soft tissue.

“Our radiation measurement instrument can actually detect both charged and neutral particles and differentiate the dose,” Ginter said, explaining that this gives researchers a more detailed picture of the radiation dose astronauts receive in low Earth orbit.

The satellite also contains a device called the Charged and Neutral Particle Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, which simulates the composition of human soft tissue.

“It’s filled with a mixture of gases that actually gives us a really detailed picture of how that radiation is going to affect people,” Ginter said.

Ginter and his team hope that the data they collected will be useful in minimizing radiation exposure for astronauts.

“We also hope that one day small radiation detectors like ours will become a little more standard,” he said. “Hopefully, NEUDOSE is the first of many so we can move forward in making space travel safer.”

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