China delivers proton accelerator to safeguard spacecraft in harsh environments
The 50 MeV proton cyclotron located in Beijing's Huairou Science City. /NSSC
The 50 MeV proton cyclotron located in Beijing's Huairou Science City. /NSSC

The 50 MeV proton cyclotron located in Beijing's Huairou Science City. /NSSC

China's self-developed proton cyclotron, a major piece of equipment for space radiation testing located in Beijing's Huairou Science City, has been put into service after trial operations were completed on Thursday, according to the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The 50 MeV cyclotron, developed by China Institute of Atomic Energy, will provide important test conditions for testing and analysis of space radiation environmental effects, as well as the design and application research of anti-radiation protection in space, said the NSSC.

In a complex space environment, high-energy protons are a main source of space radiation, which can penetrate into the spacecraft, causing damage to its chips and materials, and posing a serious threat to the health of astronauts and the normal operation of space equipment.

Therefore, an on-ground device that can simulate the radiation environment in space will be conducive to better understanding the space radiation environmental effects, based on which, scientists can strengthen the components of spacecraft and spacesuits to resist the harsh space environment.

Construction of the accelerator started in 2017. It first produced a beam last July, and completed technical acceptance testing in April this year.

With key technical indicators meeting the international advanced level, the accelerator can provide energy ranging from 10 to 50 MeV, beam intensity of 10,000 to 10 billion protons per square centimeter per second, and covers a 20×20cm irradiation area.

It carried out experimental tests of proton irradiation for more than 30 domestic institutions during the trial operation stage.

Its location, the Huairou Science City, is a comprehensive national science center which harbors dozens of scientific facilities, including China's latest high-energy synchrotron radiation light source facility – High Energy Photon Source.

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