RaD-X's Role in Cosmic Ray Research

The Radiation Dosimetry Experiment (RaD-X) aimed to provide insights into the high levels of ionization energy in the atmosphere using scientific balloons (“About RaD-X,” 2018). The high concentration of ionization energy in the atmosphere emitted from cosmic ray energy, can cause the risk of cancer to pilots and passengers traveling on aircrafts through the harmful radiation-packed atmosphere. It was launched on September 25, 2018, and was a successful mission. The data contributed greatly to public safety efforts, research in physics, and the payload reached the NASA facilities safely.

The objective of the RaD-X mission is to use scientific balloons to measure cosmic ray energy at different points in the atmosphere. High cosmic ray energy on Earth is a very relevant problem to today’s world. The high ionization energy on Earth can pose many health risks such as cancer, damage to DNA, and also exposes pilots to large amounts of radiation (“Health Effects,” n.d) . The objective of the RaD-X mission is to figure out how cosmic rays input ionization energy into Earth’s atmosphere. By collecting data in this energy field, scientists can help to improve airplane safety and lower radiation in the atmosphere.

The mission type of RaD-X is an Earth-based and high altitude mission. It is executed by using a scientific research balloon to observe the ionization energy in Earth’s atmosphere. RaD-X was launched in 2015 from Fort Sumter, New Mexico. The payloads safely reached the NASA research facilities and are being analyzed to provide answers to the abundance of ionization energy emitted by cosmic rays in the atmosphere.

RaD-X provides benefits to medical and scientific research, but also to the Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety model (NAIRAS). NAIRAS is an initiative created by NASA to increase public awareness of the radiation exposure to pilots and passengers on planes. It also is making strides to develop a predicting technology to analyze real-time radiation levels and its impact on aircraft pilots and passengers (NAIRAS, 2018).

The duration of RaD-X was 24 hours, as the durations on scientific balloons are very short but effective. The balloon was launched on September 25, 2015, and the payloads were received the very next day by the recovery crew. RaD-X flew at an altitude of 110,000 feet during the mission and was an overall success.

The platform used by RaD-X were scientific balloons. Scientists are using scientific balloons to research and study the producers of high energy matter located in the entirety of the universe. These scientific balloons are filled with helium, and carries the payload cargo underneath it. After reaching its goal altitude, the balloon moves with the winds in the stratosphere and collects data. After the data collection is complete, the payload falls from the balloon with a parachute to make sure the data reaches the research facilities safely. RaD-X had no evident mission constraints, as the entire mission went smoothly in terms of the data collection and payload drop off. In terms of launch obstacles, the RaD-X launch had to be rescheduled multiple times due to high winds and air conditions (“RaD-X,” 2015). These problems delayed the launch dates, but they didn’t affect the mission outcome or research.

Overall, the Radiation Dosimetry Experiment was a successful mission. It helped to provide crucial data on the ionization energy present in the atmosphere and emitted by cosmic ray energies. The research can help to provide more safety for pilots and passengers exposed to such high levels of radiation in the atmosphere, which can help to lower the risk of cancer from these ionization energies.


About Rad-X. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://science.larc.nasa.gov/radx/about.html

Ionizing radiation, health effects and protective measures. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs371/en/

NAIRAS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from http://sol.spacenvironment.net/nairas/

RaD-X, N. (2015, October 28). NASA RaD-X (@NASA_RaDX). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://twitter.com/nasa_radx