NASA Helping in Fight Against COVID-19

NASA Helping in Fight Against COVID-19

NASA is reaching in, not out, for ideas on how it can help fight the coronavirus pandemic.  Already a low cost ventilator designed by JPL and an oxygen helmet developed by Armstrong Flight Research Center in partnership with aerospace companies and others in California are close to getting expedited FDA approval.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine showcased those and other NASA efforts during a media telecon today, praising the NASA workforce for its eagerness to help.

One challenge for COVID-19 patients is getting enough oxygen as the virus attacks the lungs.  JPL developed a prototype of a high pressure ventilator in just 37 days that requires one-seventh the number of parts of a typical ventilator and thus can be made quickly, at low cost, and without disrupting the supply chain for traditional ventilators.

JPL is a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Caltech is making the design available royalty-free to companies that want to manufacture it.  Called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), it has been successfully tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.  JPL’s David Gallagher said during the telecon that he thinks it will get expedited FDA approval for emergency use in the next 24-48 hours.

At left, doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City give a thumbs up after testing a ventilator prototype developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. At right, JPL engineers are working on the ventilator prototype for coronavirus patients. Credits: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City and NASA/JPL-Caltech

It is not designed to replace traditional ventilators, which are built to last for years and treat many medical conditions.  VITAL is specifically for COVID-19 patients and can last only a few months, but is easy to use and maintain. A tube will still have to be inserted into the patient’s airway, but NASA Chief Health and Medical Office J.D. Polk said the point is to decrease the likelihood the disease will advance to the point where an advanced ventilator would be needed.

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in partnership with Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and others in California’s Antelope Valley — which some call Aerospace Valley because of all the aerospace companies there —  have developed an oxygen hood for patients with milder symptoms.  It is a type of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine that forces oxygen into low-functioning lungs.  The “Aerospace Valley Pressure Helmet” also is expected to get expedited FDA approval very soon.  The Spaceship Company began producing 500 of them this week.

The Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet was developed by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in partnership with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force.  Credit: NASA


User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.