High Voltage Orbiting Long Tether (HiVOLT) to Remove Space Radiation
The space radiation environment presents a significant impediment to both human and robotic exploration and development of space. The Earth’s magnetic field traps high energy charged particles generated by cosmic rays, solar storms, and other processes, forming the “Van Allen” belts. The high fluxes of energetic particles in the radiation belts will rapidly damage electronic and biological systems in these regions unless extraordinary and expensive measures are taken to harden or shield against these particles. Even with hardening measures, the lifetime and reliability of space systems is often limited by the steady degradation caused by very energetic particles. Under funding from NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts, TUI is currently investigating a novel concept for remediating the radiation belts to improve the safety and reliability of manned and unmanned missions in Earth orbit. The High Voltage Orbiting Long Tether (HiVOLT) System, illustrated in Figure 1 below, will utilize long, lightweight, conducting structures deployed in the radiation belts and charged to very high voltages to scatter the energetic radiation particles, causing them to leave the radiation belts. Preliminary analyses indicate that a HiVOLT System can reduce the MeV particle flux in the inner electron belt to 1% of its natural levels within about two months.