Israeli radiation vest blasts off to Space Station for testing

The vest will be worn by astronauts for over six months to evaluate its ability to protect vital organs and tissues with an eye to future manned space flights.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A protective vest invented by a Tel Aviv-based company blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday on an automated resupply craft to start a six-month test of how comfortable it is to work in it as it guards the astronauts from the dangerous radiation of outer space.

StemRad, an Israeli startup that provides personal radiation protection solutions to anyone who may need it, from medical teams and first responders to the military, has now developed its technology for those few who go beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

“The patented technology of the AstroRad vest is about optimizing protection for the most sensitive organs and tissues in the body, which are found from the pelvis to the chest,” explained Dr. Gideon Waterman, StemRad’s Chief Technology Officer, to WIN. “While we want to protect every part of the astronauts, this is the most important one in terms of cancer reduction for the crew, which is the focus of NASA’s protection standards.”

Three female astronauts will wear the vest regularly on board the ISS, testing its comfort level and the range of motion it allows under microgravity conditions with an eye to the future, as NASA plans on renewing manned space flights in the upcoming years.

“The spacesuit is an enabler of human space exploration beyond lower earth orbits, meaning sending astronauts to the moon and eventually to Mars,” said Waterman, who has worked on the project since it began in 2015. “It’s a challenge that we’ve developed a solution for.”

This will be the first time that the Israeli flag will be seen on the ISS, as the vest is adorned by the blue-and-white tag sewn right beside the American flag on its upper left side.

“It’s very much an Israeli invention,” Waterman said, “as StemRad patented the technology and it was manufactured and produced in Israel.”

StemRad partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop the vest, as the giant American firm made sure that all the requirements for use of the product in spaceflight were met, he said. The flight to the ISS was cosponsored by the Israel Space Agency.

The vest went along with some 4,000 kilograms of other scientific equipment and supplies that NASA sent to the space station.

The AstroRad’s ability to protect astronauts from deep-space radiation will be further tested next year, in conjunction with the German space authority, as the vest will be placed on an unmanned flight to the moon.

“This will be the last flight before sending humans to the moon for the first time since the [American] Apollo space program ended in 1972,” Waterman said.

“The success of the experiments with the AstroRad vest will enable Israel to make a critical contribution to the most ambitious research program NASA has ever had since the landing on the moon,” said StemRad CEO Dr. Oren Milstein.

“Thanks to the collaboration between a number of professional and governmental bodies, led by Lockheed Martin and the Israeli Space Agency, we are very close to a proud achievement for our space industry and the entire state of Israel. “