Nebula Public Library

The knowledge bank of ESA’s R&D programmes

Multi-scale open source radiation effect platform for space radiation protection

Programme Reference
Prime Contractor
Start Date
End Date
To develop a mechanistic multi-scale open-source simulation platform for radiation protection in the context of exposure to ionising radiation in space
Biological effects of radiation in space missions expose astronauts to health risks that need to be quantified and possibly minimised in order to enable a human exploration programme. The space radiation environment differs from the terrestrial one, including highly variable fluxes of energetic protons from Solar activity, and highly ionising, penetrating ions from Galactic Cosmic Rays with lower intensity but higher biological damage effectiveness.
The development a European Space Radiation Risk Model was indicated as priority by the ESA Topical Team in Investigation of Biological Effects of Radiation (IBER). In support to this development, improvements are needed in the understanding of detailed interaction of radiation at DNA and cellular level, complementing macroscopic damage models. Damage and risk models shall serve as input to human space flight mission design and operation, within the current workflows or as part of new tools such as those envisaged as part of e.g. The erfnet or SEPEM studies.
Modelling of radiation interactions at nanometre / micrometre scale requires Monte Carlo transport tools capable of describing physical interactions with the cellular materials down to extremely low energies. The Geant4-DNA activity, initiated by ESA and profiting from the contribution of an international collaboration, has laid the foundations for detailed track-structure simulations, extending the models to DNA damage through physico-chemical and chemical processes.
This activity encompasses the following tasks:
- extensions to the physics and chemistry models, and new models for description of DNA repair mechanisms and other biological effects, aiming at enabling comparisons with experimental observables.
- assembly of a simulation platform able to work at different spatial and temporal scales: from early damage to mid and long term time scales (minutes, hours, days); at cellular, full body, and S/C and planetary habitat scale.
- Validation of damage quantification and repair processes through irradiation campaigns (eg. DSB using immunofluorescence staining) at micro-beams, and through comparison to space-based measurements (e.g. From biochips). Design of further relevant space-based measurements.
Application Domain
Technology Domain
4 - Space Systems Environments and Effects
Competence Domain
10-Astrodynamics, Space Debris and Space Environment
2-Contamination and Radiation
Initial TRL
Target TRL
Achieved TRL
Public Document