New Study Predicts Space Radiation Exposure on Astronauts With Better Accuracy

By Pranav Mahapatra

March 13, 2023
earth and sun space radiation
Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet’s upper atmosphere. Credit: NASA/GSFC

As human spaceflight continues to expand outside of low Earth orbit (LEO), the risks associated with space radiation exposure become increasingly important to understand.

Space radiation is a significant concern for the health and well-being of astronauts and other space travelers.

The effects of space radiation on human health can range from short-term symptoms such as nausea and fatigue to long-term consequences such as an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

Accurately predicting space radiation exposure is therefore crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of astronauts on extended missions.

A recent preprint study published on Arxiv – “Novel Tetrahedral Human Phantoms for Space Radiation Dose Assessment[1] offers a novel approach for predicting space radiation exposure.

High Degree of Accuracy in Predicting Space Radiation Exposure

The study utilized high-fidelity anatomical computational phantoms that accurately depict the internal organs of both male and female individuals.

And then used the unique moderator block method to calculate the daily and cumulative space radiation dose exposures to individual organs and the whole body.

The researchers generated male and female computational phantoms, and then used the Space Radiation Analysis Group (SRAG) tool to calculate the space radiation dose on these phantoms.

They also compared their predicted radiation doses to actually measured doses taken from astronaut exposure data.


Researchers found that the calculated radiation dose was 6.7% of the actual recorded ISS values, which demonstrates a high degree of accuracy compared to previous approaches.

They note that the remaining error in the calculated values is most likely because of the spectrum input, which used measured particle flux and energy averaged over several days.

So, this calculation could be improved in future iterations by refining the computational inputs and considering factors such as the solar cycle, shielding, mission parameters, trajectory, and other factors that may alter particle fluence and intravehicular environmental complexity.

The study demonstrates the feasibility of using high-performance computers and sophisticated computational models for assessing spaceflight-relevant scenarios.

By utilizing mesh computational phantoms, the researchers were able to model and investigate dose deposition and track structure analysis on the order of microns and smaller.

This capability could enable the assessment of individualized exposures that would be incurred by astronaut crews during spaceflight and facilitate the application of a personalized risk assessment in order to better predict and communicate the short-and long-term health outcomes of space radiation exposures.

Implications of the Research on Future Space Travel

Implications of this study are far-reaching; accurate prediction of space radiation exposure can revolutionize the understanding of health and performance risks in human spaceflight.

It could also allow for the advancement of preventive measures to limit health impacts from cumulative space radiation exposure.

As human spaceflight expands beyond low Earth orbit, this predictive capability will become increasingly important.

It will allow for the advancement of preventive capabilities to limit health impacts from cumulative space radiation exposure and the ability to personalize risk assessments for future spaceflight will also be crucial.

The study offers a platform for developing high-precision simulations for assessing highly specific radiation scenarios, providing a more accurate assessment of individualized exposures that would be incurred by astronaut crews during spaceflight.

The methodology used in this study could be tailored and refined to further improve its accuracy and predictive capabilities for future spaceflight missions.


  1. Megan E. Chesal, et al., ‘Novel Tetrahedral Human Phantoms for Space Radiation Dose Assessment‘, Arxiv, 9 March 2023[]