Canadian Space Agency Funds Health Technologies for Deep-Space Exploration

Canadian Space Agency Funds Health Technologies for Deep-Space Exploration. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency announced it has awarded 13 contracts to the health and biomedical communities as part of their health technologies initiative for for Deep-Space Exploration.

Of the 13 contracts awarded, 4 had already been reported on by SpaceQ in mid-January. Those contracts were for Category A of the initiative, Technology Concept Studies and Prototyping of Health Technologies for Deep Space Missions – Decision Support Systems.

The other 9 contracts are for Category B, Technology Concept Studies in the Fields of Medical Diagnostic Tools, Radiation Protection, and Medical Training and Simulation for Deep Space Missions

The total value of all 13 contracts is $1.3 million. The funding comes from the Space Technology Development Program.

These contracts are part of the agencies long-term goal of positioning Canada as a leader in health technologies as humans begin to explore beyond low Earth orbit.

Carré Technologies Inc. – Advanced Hybrid System for Medical Monitoring (Montreal, Quebec $99,995) 

Carré Technologies proposes a conceptual study of a hybrid system for medical monitoring that will integrate two of their technologies to detect and predict both physical and psycho-social health risks: Bio-Monitor Astroskin system and the Wireless Micro Sensor System for Crew Biometric Monitoring.

Long-term sensors, embedded in crew member clothing, will provide a continuous monitoring of vital signs and data collection. If a condition is detected by the long-term sensors, and if the Clinical Decision Support System or Crew Medical Officer evaluate the need for it, acute investigation sensors will be used to monitor physiological signals with increased level of confidence. These acute investigation sensors will consist of wireless sensors applied directly to the skin of crew members. Data from the hybrid system will be used for analysis, decision support, treatment, countermeasures, and crew medical training.

Neptec Design Group Ltd. – Multimodal Functional Imaging Sensor (Kanata, Ontario $99,190)

Neptec Design Group proposes a novel medical diagnostic tool for human performance modelling and cognitive assessment.

The team will investigate the practicality of integrating miniaturized biometric sensors measuring vital signs, with new sensors measuring the electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) of the prefrontal cortex to record electrical activity in the brain, and to monitor cognitive states. With the development of a miniaturized EEG/fNIRS-integrated sensor, Neptec Design Group aims to expand the number of biometric parameters that feed into analytical models of human health to achieve a more comprehensive monitoring of cognitive states.

University of Saskatchewan – Spacecraft Medical Imaging System (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan $100,000) 

The University of Saskatchewan and its partners will explore the capability of developing a bio-medical imaging system that will scan for critical health risks such as the effects of radiation on the brain, spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome, bone and muscle loss, as well as other risks ranging from cancer to broken bones.

The system will be centered around a head-sized multimodal magnetic resonance imager (MRI), in which the sensors found in different brain imaging methods – near infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalography, electrical impedance tomography, and optical coherence tomography – will be used to enhance and complement the MRI data. A complete machine-learning based software suite will then merge the acquired multi-modality images for interpretation and analysis, extract features of interest, model and simulate on-going processes, and provide guidance for space personnel.

Bubble Technology Industries Inc. – Compact Canadian Neutron Spectrometer (Chalk River, Ontario $100,000) 

Bubble Technology Industries proposes the conception of a miniaturized neutron detector for the radiological protection of astronauts.

The neutron spectrometer will use two enabling technologies to produce a compact, low-power system: scintillator detector materials that fluoresce when struck by high-energy neutrons, and silicon photomultipliers that will detect the light emitted by the scintillator detectors. The application of these two technologies will allow high detection efficiency, as well as an improved ability to differentiate between neutron radiation from other of types of radiation found in space.

Calian Ltd. – Development of a DNA-Based Dosimeter (Ottawa, Ontario $99,672)

Calian aims to further explore the capability of a biologically-based gel dosimeter to measure the mixed-radiation field in deep space.

As deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) provides crucial understandings to the biological effects of radiation, the proposed solution offers a device in which tissue-equivalent double-strand DNA breaks are used to estimate the quantity of radiation absorbed by crew members. The DNA-based dosimeter will also be able to qualify the type of radiation field by comparing single strand breaks with double strand breaks under various space radiation fields.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories – Neutron Dosimetry Solutions (Chalk River, Ontario $98,089)

This concept study proposes an active, personal neutron dosimeter that can be used to monitor the fast neutron component of the secondary scatter radiation environment generated by both the galactic cosmic radiation originating from outside the solar system, and possible solar particle events emitted by the sun.

It also proposes a supplementary tool to help predict the secondary-scatter radiation environment and radiation dose to crew members caused by solar particle events’ interaction with the spacecraft shielding.

Lunar Medical Inc. – AstroSim: Spaceflight human patient simulator and training framework (Hamilton, Ontario $99,940)

This concept study aims to develop a system, AstroSim, that will increase crew members’ ability to learn and maintain complex medical event management skills.

The AstroSim is a portable light full-body patient simulator including an anatomically accurate head and neck fused to an inflatable body made of durable vinyl. A control computer will be attached to provide physiologic modelling, electrocardiographic responses, and appropriate vocalization, breath, and heart sounds. Another computer will serve as a critical care monitor. The concept study will include identifying component materials, developing spaceflight specific physiological modelling software, addressing a range of spaceflight-specific skill training capabilities, and outlining key steps that must be taken to ensure the design is compatible with the spaceflight environment. While the full-body patient simulator was designed for space, it will also be valuable in delivering and maintaining medical skills for health care providers in remote and rural communities, such as those in Northern Canada.

Luxsonic Technologies Inc. – Just-in-Time Virtual Reality Medical Training System (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan $100,000)

Luxsonic Technologies will conceptualize a portable, light-weight, end-to-end solution for medical training and simulation.

The comprehensive virtual reality software suite for medical education, training, and assessment will be produced using the most advanced commercially available virtual reality headsets and computer hardware. The computer system will contain a variety of relevant clinical modules designed for just-in-time delivery; each module will feature a high-quality 360 degree educational video of clinical procedures, with corresponding high-fidelity, fully interactive virtual reality simulations and a built-in capacity for self-assessment.

ADGA Group Consultant Inc. – MedCoach (Gatineau, Quebec $100,000)

This concept study aims to provide high-fidelity medical support through just-in-time training from a pre-recorded algorithms and procedures database.

The project will be centered around a hands-free, voice-controlled headset unit through which instructions can be viewed and heard. The augmented reality headset display, accessed via smart glasses, will overlay practical information onto a patient or equipment in the real-world setting, combining an electronic checklist with step-by-step visual procedural cues for both contextual learning and just-in-time emergency responses. The immersive learning experience concept will also include a point-of-view retrospective video that will be used for performance assessment and quality improvement opportunities.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.