A Fresh Look at Radiation Exposures from Major Solar Proton Events
Solar proton events (SPEs) represent the single-most significant source of acute radiation exposure during space missions. Historically, an exponential in rigidity (particle momentum) fit has been used to express the SPE energy spectrum using GOES data up to 100 MeV. More recently, researchers have found that a Weibull fit better represents the energy spectrum up to 1000 MeV (1 GeV). In addition, the availability of SPE data extending up to several GeV has been incorporated in analyses to obtain a more complete and accurate energy spectrum representation. In this paper we discuss the major SPEs that have occurred over the past five solar cycles (~50+ years) in detail - in particular, Aug 1972 and Sept & Oct 1989 SPEs. Using a high-energy particle transport/dose code, radiation exposure estimates are presented for various thicknesses of aluminum. The effects on humans and spacecraft systems are also discussed in detail.