US: Blue Origin has successfully launched its New Shepard reusable space vehicle on Dec. 12 carrying a medical technology that could potentially treat chest trauma in a space environment. The aircraft took off from the Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site and landed safely at the same place.
Blue Origin is a Flight Opportunities program launch provider for government payloads. The Flight Opportunities program is managed by NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The device could potentially assist in treating accidents such as a collapsed lung where air and blood enter the pleural cavity.
The payload was constructed in collaboration with the Purdue University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Indiana. The new technology has a suction system that collects the blood in microgravity and allows for the lungs to continuously inflate as well as store blood for transfusion.
“This flight marks the first of many Flight Opportunities’ flights of payloads with Blue Origin,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA Flight Opportunities campaign manager for Blue Origin.
“New Shepard brings new capabilities to the program. This launch platform allows for larger payloads, provides lower launch accelerations, and maintains a sealed pressure environment.”
With NASA funding to support the flight cost, the Evolved Medical Microgravity Suction Device technology was developed by Charles Marsh Cuttino and his team at Orbital Medicine, in Richmond, Virginia.
Currently, astronauts and cosmonauts have to return to Earth quickly for medical treatment should an incident arise with chest trauma on the International Space Station. Collapsed lungs are treated on Earth with gravity dependent collectors that will not work in space.
“My hope is that in the future, this type of medical device will be able to save the life of an astronaut, to continue their mission of exploration,” said Dr. Cuttino.
“These types of medical treatment options could be required to explore the Moon and Mars.”
The device also has a pneumothorax simulator, which simulates an injured person and shows how the device removes the air and blood to promote healing.