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A magnetic shielding system, like the one sketched out above, could protect crews of future missions beyond Earth from hazardous radiation. New research has recently begun to examine the use of superconducting magnet technology to protect astronauts from radiation during long-duration spaceflights, such as the interplanetary flights to Mars that are proposed in NASA’s current Vision for Space Exploration. However, the technology for creating superconducting magnets that can generate strong fields to shield spacecraft from cosmic radiation has only recently been developed. There are two types of radiation that need to be addressed for long-duration human spaceflight, says William S.
The easiest way to avoid radiation is to absorb it, like wearing a lead apron when you get an x-ray at the dentist.
Hoffman foresees using a hybrid system that employs both a magnetic field and passive absorption. A little bit of shielding can actually make the situation worse, because the cosmic rays interact with the shielding and can create secondary charged particles, increasing the overall radiation dose. One of the most important conclusions to the second phase of this research will be to determine if using superconducting magnet technology is mass effective.
The examinations of maintaining the magnetic field strength and the near-absolute zero temperatures of this system in space are already being studied in an experiment that is scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station for a three-year stay. NIAC was created in 1998 to solicit revolutionary concepts from people and organizations outside the space agency that could advance NASA's missions.


Hoffman flew in space five times and became the first astronaut to log more than 1,000 hours on the space shuttle. Hoffman knows that to make a space mission possible, there’s a lot of idea development and hard engineering which precedes it.
The European Union SR2S project not only investigates the principles and the scientific problems (of magnetic shielding), but it also faces the complex issues in engineering. Superconducting magnets, commonly found in MRI scanners, produce stronger, more efficient magnetic fields using smaller and lighter magnets than magnets made using conventional materials such as copper or aluminium. On earth, superconducting materials must be cooled to very low temperatures using liquid helium to utilize their superconducting properties, however the project has already found a solution that will work in space.
Simulations of the magnetic system suggest that a 10-meter-diameter magnetic field could be produced by a system weighing less than half that of a comparable passive shield. The SR2S superconducting shield will provide an intense magnetic field, 3,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field and will be confined around the space craft. An active deflector shield system could never replace passive shielding or biological advances, but it can offer options, particularly for EVAs, extending the longevity of hardware and preventing secondary activation of the ship's hull and systems. Higgins, an engineering physicist who works on radiation safety at Fermilab, the particle accelerator near Chicago. MgB2 can superconduct at 10 kelvin, or -263 degrees Celsius, which removes the need for liquid-helium cooling as this temperature is comparable with that of deep space.


Magnetic fields with 10 tesla and 10 meters thickness could deflect about 93% of the radiation. Hoffman’s concept is one of 12 proposals that began receiving funding last October from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Each gets $75,000 for six months of research to make initial studies and identify challenges in developing it. Projects that make it through that phase are eligible for as much as $400,000 more over two years.
Another challenge is keeping the system at temperatures near absolute zero, which gives the materials their superconductive properties. Peter Fisher, a physics professor also from MIT, works on the AMS experiment, and is cooperating with Hoffman on his research of superconducting magnets.



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