Hopefully this is relevant to the board and doesn't get deleted. Quick background: In Thailand. Grad student, mechanical engineering, with very limited knowledge regarding nuclear or space radiations. No local resource or specialist to consult.

What I'm trying to figure out is if there are any software that NASA, SpaceX, and satellite manufacturers use to measure their radiation shield's effectiveness before manufacturing stuff. For example, when we design a product we run basic stress simulations in Solidworks to see if it can withstand it's purpose. Or use COMSOL for more in depth measurements.

From what I've found scourging through Google, there are at least two software (both of which claims to be industry standard) that deals with space radiation simulation. One is FASTRAD and the other is Novice.

I also found that using software that deals with Molecular Dynamics (like ACEMD or GROMACS) is an option, since space radiation or GCR is of extremely high energy and directly interacts with molecules and atoms.

There is also NASA's RITRACKS, but from what it reads it is aimed at simulating biological damage from heavy ions.

As for academic papers, most simply states using "Monte Carlo based simulations" without much specifics (that I can comprehend at my level of understanding). And all 4 of the above mentioned software does that.

I'm uncertain about FASTRAD and Novice, as most of the things on the website sounds a bit alien to me. But for ACEMD and GROMACS, I feel like it would be impractical to use this method given how long it takes to compute and render even simple simulations. But then again, it's the space industry and they have to be very precise?

tl;dr - How does NASA et al. simulate if their radiation shields are going to do their jobs?

The purpose for which I am asking this is that I am interested in ISRU, and would like to simulate to see if my designs can survive through GCR/ long term extraterrestrial use. The most reliable way of doing that would be actual tests conducted at NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) but that's on the other side of the world and we all know how affluent research budgets can be.

P.S. There is a chance that I have completely misunderstood the design approach that I should be taking when working for space. I'd greatly appreciate if anyone has any reference material they would like to suggest that could point me towards the right direction for these sort of things. I realise I am way out of my depths but this is one of the few projects that has me excited despite the hurdle. Adviser on the same boat lol

  • $\begingroup$ If you're interested on the impact of radiation on electronics, you can simulate radiation events and exposure in spice pspice.com/resources/application-notes/… $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Calculating radiation cascades is a difficult and complicated job and involves a lot of approximations and interpolations. There are protons, neutrons, heavier ions photons, electrons/positrons and when they enter matter and hit stuff they make an even messier mixture. The reason people sometimes say "mumble mumble monte-carlo mumble mumble" is because it's messy and nobody wants to spend the time to get good at it. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if Physics SE is a better place to ask? Experimental nuclear and particle physics researchers and staff have to perform these kinds of calculations and may know of open-source, well documented programs that are available to academic researchers. But note that you will have to enter the incident radiation parameters, how much of each particle at each energy and each direction, so you can't really even start until you've researched that, and that depends on the particular orbit, and which direction you are facing in that orbit. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ google cross reference failure; Both NOVICE and FASTRAD have parent WebSites $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2022 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


Industry standard is SPENVIS, SRIM, or STK. SPENVIS is freely available so I would recommend using that. SPENVIS is a collection of radiation analysis packages specifically developed by NASA and maintained by ESA.


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