The Brillance of Ingenuity

CFDRC awarded NASA contract to develop software for improved forecasting of solar particle events and their effects on space electronics

Huntsville, Ala. | November 17, 2016 – CFD Research Corporation, teamed with the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Vanderbilt University, have been awarded a $750k contract from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to develop a comprehensive solar particle event (SPE) forecasting capability.

High-energy space radiation from Galactic Cosmic Rays and Solar Particle Events (SPEs) pose significant risks to equipment and astronaut health in NASA missions. Energetic particles from SPEs associated with flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) may adversely affect not only beyond-Low-Earth-Orbit missions, but also aircraft avionics, communications, and airline crew/passenger health. It is crucial to develop a capability to forecast SPEs and their effects on systems to guide planning of mission-related tasks and risk mitigation strategies.

CFD Research is building a capability to forecast the impact of solar flares on electronics,  and provide an “early warning system” to operators, allowing them to take precautions like avoiding polar regions,  powering down sensitive systems or even re-orienting satellites to minimize damage from the impending solar storm. NASA and CFDRC recognize the value of an early warning system to our technology-dependent society.

CFDRC’s SPE Forecast tool (SPE4) will comprise state-of-the-art modules integrated within a novel computational framework. SPE4 will include the MAG4 code for probability forecasts of flares/CMEs, and SPEs, the PATH code for solar particle transport through the heliosphere, Geant4-based transport calculations including geomagnetic modulation and atmospheric interactions (for avionics) to yield spectra of SPE-induced energetic protons/heavy ions, and be interfaced to the CRÈME96 code for calculation of resulting effects in electronics.  The MAG4 and PATH codes were developed at UAH, Geant4 is an open-source toolkit for simulating the passage of particles through matter and fields, and CREME96 is currently distributed by Vanderbilt/NASA.

In earlier work CFDRC demonstrated the superior capability of MAG4, PATH, and Geant4 for their respective tasks using a prior solar event case and developed a client-server architecture concept for the final software product to be delivered to NASA. In this new work CFDRC will collaborate with Vanderbilt University to interface with CRÈME96 to determine single-event effects in electronics. CFDRC will also enhance robustness, accuracy, and execution speed via improved models and procedures, and demonstrate the software for 24x7 SPE monitoring.

About CFD Research Corporation: Since its inception in 1987, CFDRC has worked with government agencies, businesses and academia to provide innovative solutions within the Aerospace & Defense, Biomedical & Life Sciences, and Energy & Materials industries. Over the years CFDRC has earned multiple national awards for successful application and commercialization of innovative component/system technology prototypes, multi-physics simulation software and multi-disciplinary analyses. Learn more at

Richard Thoms
Manger, Technology Partnerships // 256.726.4810

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