2010 Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology
September 27 - October 1, 2010
The DNA Medicine Institute (DMI) successfully completed reduced-gravity experiments on its rHEALTH sensor for the 2010 Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST) program, at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston, Texas, at the end of September. The rHEALTH sensor is designed to extract a multitude of diagnostic information from a single drop of blood. Although designed for use in reduced-gravity environments in space, the technology can be applied to real-time health monitoring at patient's bedside or in a doctor's office, and allow for real-time clinical intervention in acute situations. It was one of 17 technology demonstration projects, from 10 different states, for reduced-gravity aircraft flights. The DMI device was subject to zero, lunar, and 1.8 g conditions for periods up to 25 seconds in a Boeing 727 airplane flying repeated parabolic trajectories. A joint team from DMI and NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) successfully performed experiments on the rHEALTH platform, which included sample loading, mixing, and detection. The device operated without fail on all four lunar and zero gravity flights.
DNA Medicine Institute and NASA Glenn Research Center team members perform a zero gravity test on the rHEALTH microfluidic chip, a technology that enables a breadth of biomedical tests for space medical applications. The effects of weightlessness can be seen by the floating orange ear plugs attached to Dr. Eugene Chan's flight suit. The reduced gravity test was successful and is a critical step to proving the technology in a space-relevant environment.
Figure 1. Tests were performed under zero-G conditions generated by the parabolic flight trajectory. Parabonauts experience high 1.8 G conditions at the bottom of the parabola and lunar or zero G conditions at the top of the parabola.
Figure 2. The Zero G 727 aircraft during loading prior to takeoff. DMI and NASA team members in the foreground and background.
Figure 3. Inside the cabin of the aircraft. The modified 727 has seats removed and padding in its interior.
Figure 4. Preflight rHEALTH briefing with DMI/GRC team.
Figure 5. Experiments were performed in the flight cabin among 16 other groups also selected for the flights. Three DMI/GRC team members are shown at left under the DMI banner.
Figure 6. The team tested a range of experiments including sample loading, microfluidic mixing, and detection on the aircraft under reduced gravity conditions. The technology was controlled by a laptop computer and custom software.
Figure 7. GRC team member in lunar gravity, which is approximately 1/6th the gravity as on Earth.
Figure 8. GRC team members in zero gravity.
Figure 9. The DMI/GRC team during a zero gravity parabola.