Feeds

Radiation puts kybosh on cheap satellite plans

No safe space

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

The space around the Earth is more dangerous than scientists thought, according to new research. This could mean plans for lightly shielded, very cheap satellites will have to be shelved for the time being.

Researchers at the University of Colorado have discovered that a region around the planet, previously thought to be free of radiation, is actually awash with high energy particles. This so-called "safe-zone" sits in between the radiation-stuffed Van Allen belts. This region is normally shielded by the Earth's plasmasphere, but during the particularly intense solar storms last year, this was eroded somewhat and the "safe-zone" was flooded with ions. Some radiation still remains today, researchers have found.

The Van Allen belts are two torus shaped regions that sit at altitudes of 3000-6000km and 20,000-25,000km above Earth's equator. For a long time it was thought impossible for a human being to survive crossing this hostile zone. (This argument is one of the central tenets of the "Moon Landings Conspiracy" theory, which argues that the whole moon mission was faked. Shame about the lunar laser ranging retroreflector array, huh?)

Check out NASA's page for some amazing graphics of these regions.

Satellites that orbit outside the safe-zone have always carried heavy shielding to protect them from radiation in orbit. However, this shielding makes getting the craft into orbit an expensive proposition. Scientists had hoped that lighter satellites would be able to be launched that would orbit only in the safe zone. This research suggests that this wouldn't be such a good idea.

Last year's storms were unusually intense, but that doesn't mean the zone is safe. Once every 11 years, when solar activity peaks, radiation will be more than strong enough to flood the space between the Van Allen belts, and smaller peaks in the intervening years could also cause problems.

Jerry Goldstein of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, told New Scientist: "It doesn't exactly shatter our hopes but it's not good." ®

Related stories

Galileo launches will go ahead
UK firm plans space tug for satellite rescues
BBC Weather goes 3D

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Melting permafrost switches to nasty, high-gear methane release
Result? 'Way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.