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Czech detector on the Orion spacecraft

Detectors from Czech Technical University measured radiation during the flight of Orion

Prague, December 5th, 2014 – this is an important day for the US space thanks to the first test of the new spaceship Orion MPCV, which will be used for manned flight at low orbit, but also to asteroids, the moon, and possibly to Mars. The Orion spacecraft has rounded the earth twice and after less than 4.5 hours has landed safely in the Pacific Ocean. There were onboard a large number of devices monitoring the progress of flight and condition of the spacecraft. An independent radiation detector (BIRD) whose construction was contributed by Czech experts was one of them.

Onboard the Orion spacecraft there was located a few passive thermoluminescent detectors in frame of the RAM experiment, which are able to record the total dose received. However, its value can be derived only after the ground processing. On the other hand, the BIRD detector is active, which means that all the time it measured and recorded real values of cosmic radiation penetrated inside the spacecraft. Moreover, the detector was powered by its own battery and thus was fully independent on the electricity supply.

The BIRD detector was developed by NASA Johnson Space Centre and the University of Houston in collaboration with the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics (IEAP) of Czech Technical University in Prague. Our experts have delivered the electronic interface and two detectors based on TimePix chip that was created by a group of scientists from the CERN research center. Six of similar USB detector developed in collaboration with the IEAP have been onboard the International Space Station (ISS) since 2012. The detectors are primarily intended to detect charged particles, but it can be used to detect photons or neutrons as well.