StemRad, an Israeli startup developing radiation protection tech, was on its way to the Moon a few weeks ago. Well, its tech was anyway, on NASA’s Artemis mission. But the Artemis flight was scrubbed by NASA due to technical difficulties. Fortunately, NASA now says it knows what the problem is and is correcting it.
NASA says that Artemis is the first step in the next era of human exploration. Together with commercial and international partners, NASA will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars.
The Artemis mission had to be delayed because NASA detected a hydrogen leak as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was being fueled. After disconnecting the ground and rocket-side plates on the interface, called a quick disconnect, for the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line, teams have replaced the seals on the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage associated with the liquid hydrogen leak detected during the Artemis I launch attempt Sept. 3.
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Founded in 2011, StemRad develops, manufactures and sells personal protective equipment (PPE) for radiation. It is the world’s only company producing PPE intended to protect users from high energy radiation and the first to employ selective shielding in its products.
The Artemis I mission will debut the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule it is carrying with no crew on board – for the more than month-long journey around the moon and back. Ahead of the launch of its Artemis I flight, NASA installed Zohar and Helga, the two identical manikins for testing a new radiation protection vest developed by StemRad.
In lieu of a human crew, Artemis I’s Orion spacecraft will be carrying two identical manikin torsos, dubbed Helga and Zohar and manufactured from materials that mimic human bone, soft tissues, and the organs of an adult female. Female forms have been chosen because women typically have greater sensitivity to the effects of space radiation. Zohar will be wearing the StemRad radiation vest, which covers the upper body, the uterus, and blood-forming organs, while Helga will not. The manikins are equipped with radiation detectors, which will enable scientists to map internal radiation doses to bodily areas containing critical organs. Identical in every other way, they will inform scientists on how well the new vest may protect the crew from radiation, while also collecting data on how much radiation astronauts might experience inside Orion on a lunar mission – conditions that cannot be recreated on Earth.
NASA now says technicians will reconnect the umbilical plates and perform inspections over the weekend before preparing for a tanking demonstration as soon as Saturday, Sept. 17. This demonstration will allow engineers to check the new seals under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions as expected on launch day and before proceeding to the next launch attempt.