An Israeli company is partnering with Lockheed Martin for joint research and development (R&D) to see if its radiation shielding technology – initially designed to protect nuclear first responders from gamma radiation – can be used to defend astronauts exploring deep space.
StemRad, based in Tel Aviv with a branch in Palo Alto, California, works with militaries, nuclear energy sources and governmental agencies to create protection equipment for first responders to radiological events and disasters.
The Israeli company's 360 Gamma is a vest protecting the source of bone marrow stem cells from gamma radiation exposure, thereby allowing the stem cells to stay safe and replenish cells throughout the body.
Now it is working together with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for NASA's next-generation spacecraft Orion that will take part in long-duration missions in deep space including stops on an asteroid and Mars.
If the StemRad 360 Gamma can be successfully adapted, it may save astronauts' lives.
The joint project has been supported by a bilateral research committee, and will be supported by grants from Space Florida, Florida's aerospace economic development agency, as well as MATIMOP, the executive agency of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Economy Ministry.
"We’re going to take our extensive knowledge of human spaceflight, apply our nano-materials engineering expertise, and working closely with StemRad, evaluate the viability for this type of radiation shielding in deep-space," said Randy Sweet, Lockheed Martin business development director for the civil space line of business.
"The Lockheed Martin team believes this could result in an innovative solution to enhance crew safety on the journey to Mars."
Dr. Oren Milstein, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of StemRad, said, "we are excited to be collaborating with Lockheed Martin on this important project."
"Our team possesses advanced capabilities in the areas of radiation biology and innovative shielding strategies, and we will now be applying those skills to the unique challenges in human space exploration," said Milstein.