Photo Credit: courtesy, StemRad
StemRad protective vest to block gamma radiation

The Israeli startup StemRad is suiting up together with the Israel Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center to launch a trial of its new protective suit against cosmic gamma rays in the next flight of NASA’s Orion satellite.

StemRad’s suit will be used on the first manned flight to Mars in 2021, if an initial experiment flight to the moon next year shows the suit protected the dummy within as it was supposed to.


StemRad co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Oren Milstein says the company is working together with defense contractor Lockheed Martin on the project. “Our team possesses advanced capabilities in the areas of radiation biology and innovative shielding strategies, and we will now be applying those skills to the unique challenges in human space exploration,” Milstein said in a statement on the Lockheed Martin website.

The vest created by StemRad is designed to protect the wearer from gamma radiation, selectively protecting the wearer’s bone marrow stem cells in the body’s largest reservoir of bone marrow, the hip region.

According to the StemRad website, the startup’s logic is to “selectively protect stem cells in body’s largest reservoir of bone marrow – the hip region…

“While whole body shielding is inherently heavy, partial body shielding is lighter in weight and selectively shields tissues of increased radiosensitivity (i.e. bone marrow) with substantial amounts of shielding material to protect hematopoietic functions; therefore, potentially preventing the acute health effects of exposure to gamma radiation (i.e. Acute Radiation Syndrome -ARS),” according to Occupational Radiation Protection in Severe Accident Management, 2015.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building Orion, NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit and bring them safely home.

“By providing radiation protection for long-duration missions in deep-space, a successful adaptation of the commercial StemRad 360 Gamma could be a key component for ensuring astronaut health and safety,” the defense contractor said.

The joint project won the support of a bilateral research committee and will be supported by grants from Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of Florida and MATIMOP, the executive agency of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy of Israel.

“We’re going to take our extensive knowledge of human spaceflight, apply our nano-materials engineering expertise, and working closely with StemRad, evaluate the viability for this type of radiation shielding in deep-space,” said Randy Sweet, Lockheed Martin business development director for the civil space line of business. “The Lockheed Martin team believes this could result in an innovative solution to enhance crew safety on the journey to Mars.”

But Stemrad is looking far beyond Mars, and much closer to home.

First responders and firefighters can be protected from gamma radiation with this vest, which the company points out comes in all sizes, is 100% fire-resistant, and has specialized features such as reflector strips and ballistic resistance.

The Israeli startup points out on its website that the vest is good for “enabling our soldiers to safely engage in combat and for “protecting law enforcement from the deadly effects of gamma radiation while operating in the presence of INDs and RDDs.”

Naturally it’s also good for protecting nuclear power plant first responders and workers, as well as astronauts “from solar particle events and galactic cosmic rays.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.