Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot and Israel Space Agency Director Avi Blasberger signed the agreement during the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado.
AstroRad is made by Tel Aviv-based StemRad. If the trial, the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment, is successful, the vest could be used in future deep-space exploration.
StemRad worked with Lockheed Martin to adapt for space use a protective belt the Israeli company supplies to first responders worldwide. The belt protects the pelvis from radiation t ensure the survival of bone marrow stem cells.
The Israel Space Agency and Lockheed Martin Space Systems soon will sign a deal to test the vest on the International Space Station in 2019. Astronauts will wear the vest during their daily routines to evaluate its ergonomics.
NASA will use the space station data and the radiation findings from the Orion test to assess whether to make AstroRad part of the essential protective equipment for manned deep-space missions, such as an effort to send astronauts to Mars.
“Israeli technology in space exploration is known throughout the world as innovative, resulting from out-of-the-box thinking,” Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis said. “We are proud to facilitate this technology and enable it to be part of one of humanity’s most exciting experiments in the coming years.”
For the Orion experiment, the German Aerospace Center is contributing its Matroshka human model, which contains thousands of radiation detectors. One Matroshka will wear the AstroRad vest, and another Matroshka will not. The U.S., German and Israeli agencies then will compare the radiation absorbed by the two models.
The StemRad vest is based on the principle of selective protection of the bone marrow because of its role in renewing blood cells and organs. Because women are particularly vulnerable to space radiation, AstroRad for a woman is the first step in development.