A new device will be sent into space.
Specialists of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences are preparing to conduct the first purely Russian study of neutron fluxes inside the space station on the ISS. For this purpose, a scientific device for detecting neutrons, “BTN-Neutron-M2,” will be used.
The neutron was discovered back in the 30s of the last century. It is an unstable heavy particle with a half-life of fewer than 10 minutes. Therefore, cases when it manages to fly from space to the Earth in its original form, are very rare. This can happen only as a result of very powerful solar flares. Primary neutrons from other galaxies do not reach us, and even more so.
It turns out that in the vicinity of the space station, mainly so-called secondary neutrons are detected, that is, those that arose as a result of the collision of primary radiation, that is, galactic rays coming from the depths of space (protons, electrons, and heavy nuclei) with the Earth’s atmosphere, the walls of the station or the bodies of the astronauts themselves.
So far, Russian scientists have had the opportunity to study neutrons only on the outer surface of the Zvezda module, where the BTN-Neutron-1 device is installed for this purpose. It measures the flow of neutrons reflected from the Earth’s atmosphere, whose density is less than the density of the station itself, which means that the potential harm from these neutrons for astronauts working outside is about an order of magnitude less. According to the available data, which was previously reported by specialists of the radiation safety service of crewed flights of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the residential module, the radiation load from neutrons “multiplied” as a result of a collision with dense walls and devices of the module can be 10 times higher than outside.
Now scientists have decided to clarify these indicators. To do this, in about two years, it is planned to send a new device – “BTN-Neutron-2” to the station and install it in the recently docked Nauka module. If all the standard Russian dosimeters on board focus only on charged particles, the new one will complement the picture. There is evidence that neutrons can add another 20-30 percent to the radiation dose currently being determined by astronauts.
It is assumed that the research with the “BTN-Neutron” after the delivery of the second spacecraft to the ISS will surpass many foreign and domestic studies since, for the first time, scientists will simultaneously measure the characteristics of neutron fluxes with detectors placed outside and inside the spacecraft. This technique will allow us to build an engineering model of the general neutron background on the ISS and create radiation protection means against these heavy particles in the future.
Polyethylene and boron-10, capable of slowing down and absorbing recalcitrant particles, respectively, can become applicants for such funds. This combination was first tested by scientists when the Russian LAND neutron detector was sent into lunar orbit on the American LRO spacecraft in 2009.