News Release

Space tourists need better warnings about cosmic radiation exposure

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Surrey

Space weather experts at the University of Surrey are urging regulators and space tourism innovators to work together to protect their passengers and crews from the risks of space weather radiation exposure. 

The Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field protect people on the ground from exposure to unpredictable surges of electrically charged particles coming from the sun. However, there can be dramatic increases in potential radiation exposure at higher altitudes, such as those envisaged for space tourist flights.  

Space weather cannot yet be predicted and can lead to health risks such as damage to DNA, and it could lead to cancer. Despite this, space tourists currently receive little information and few warnings. 

Chris Rees, lead author of a new paper on radiation risks to space tourism and a postgraduate researcher at Surrey Space Centre, said: 

“Although space tourism is very niche, it will quickly grow as an industry. With increased flights, more people could be impacted by cosmic radiation exposure, especially during rapid changes in space weather. We’re recommending how regulators and industry should work together to keep people safe without unnecessarily holding back innovation.” 

JR Catchpole, co-author of the paper and a space law expert at Foot Anstey LLP, said: 

“International action is needed by regulators, but meanwhile, the early movers in the sector, like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, need to watch themselves and their passengers. The principles of informed consent mean stronger warnings and clearer information may be required.” 

The paper, which is published in Space Policy, makes a series of recommendations: 

  • Regulatory bodies should work closely with industry to ensure regulations are practical, effective and reflect technological advances 

  • International standards are needed to ensure consistent regulations 

  • Safety is crucial, which means clear information for space tourists and more monitoring of cosmic radiation during short space flights 

  • Regulation must encourage innovation within this young industry, not stifle it  


Notes to editors  

  • Chris Rees is available for an interview upon request.   

  • For more information, please contact the University of Surrey's press office via  

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