Radiation and Environmental Factors

Onboard detectors in nearly all experiments reach quantum-limited levels of sensitivity and hence tend to be quite sensitive to disturbance by local high-energy particles and photons. The effects of other environmental factors such as vibrations, stray magnetic fields, and outgassing of spacecraft components are also of concern. The radiation emanating from nuclear power systems, particularly fission reactors, is especially worrisome because it can significantly degrade the sensitivity of astrophysical observations. This issue is most acute for x-ray and gamma-ray observatories, which are by design exquisitely sensitive to exactly the types of radiation produced by fission reactors. Shielding of nuclear power systems is therefore a leading issue in their application to astrophysical missions.

REFERENCES

1. The four previous decadal surveys are as follows: Committee on Science and Public Policy, National Academy of Sciences, Ground-Based Astronomy: A Ten-Year Program, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1964; Committee on Science and Public Policy, National Academy of Sciences, Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 1970’s, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1973; Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 1980’s, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1982; and Board on Physics and Astronomy, National Research Council, The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991.

2. National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.

3. National Research Council, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos—Eleven Science Questions for the New Century, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.

4. National Research Council, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos—Eleven Science Questions for the New Century, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.

5. The Structure and Evolution of the Universe Roadmap Team, Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, NP-2002-10-510-GSFC, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., 2003.

6. The February 11, 2005, letter report of the NRC’s Committee to Review Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics Toward the Decadal Vision (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005) commented that the Beyond Einstein roadmap “is an excellent implementation and synthesis of the [AAp decadal survey] and Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos.”

7. President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2004.

8. National Research Council, “Review of Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics Toward the Decadal Vision: Letter Report,” The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 11.

9. National Research Council, “Review of Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics Toward the Decadal Vision: Letter Report,” The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 10.

10. National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 28.



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