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Contracts awarded for the development of health technologies for deep space missions

Space agencies from around the world are looking towards the future of deep-space exploration beyond the International Space Station (ISS). Canada has committed to participating in international space exploration efforts that aim to propel humanity further into the solar system. For Canada and its partners in the international space community, the health and well-being of astronauts are of critical importance in the achievement of long-duration space missions.

The Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP) supports innovation that enables growth of the Canadian space industry and reduces technological unknowns of future space missions. Due to greater physical distances and mission durations as well as communication delays, Canada is currently studying the development of medical systems and support technologies that will increase crew medical autonomy for future deep space human spaceflight missions. These technologies could also be used for the delivery of medical care on Earth, since there are synergies between terrestrial telehealth and space medicine concepts.

In early , following two Requests for Proposals issued in , the STDP awarded 13 contracts totalling $1.3M for technology concept studies advancing deep space healthcare technologies. The list of contracts awarded, including organizations, contract values and project descriptions are presented below under two categories:

  1. Category A – Technology concept studies and prototyping of health technologies for deep space missions – Decision support systems: Future exploration missions will require the crew to be independent from the ground in health and medical decisions, from identifying changes in health and performance, to diagnosis of illness and injury, to the prescription of countermeasures and treatments. This capability will require decision support systems to allow autonomy of the crew in decisions related to crew health and medical care. Organizations were awarded contracts for technology concept studies (phase 1). Upon completion of these concept studies, the CSA will select two solutions for which a prototype will be developed (phase 2).
  2. Category B – Technology concept studies in the fields of medical diagnostic tools, radiation protection, and medical training and simulation for deep space missions: Confined within the limits of the spacecraft, astronauts on long-duration missions will face various health-related hazards, ranging from cognitive impairment, physical injuries, stress, to space radiation. Due to limited access to Earth-based medical support and tools, the development of compact, light-weight technologies will be critical for crew members to manage their health independently from the ground.
contracts awarded, including organizations, contract values and project descriptions
Category Organization Contract value Proposal Objective
A Carré Technologies Inc.
Montreal, Quebec
$99,995 Space Medicine Decision Support System (SMDSS)

The purpose of this concept study is to explore the capability of a diagnostic framework to manage treatment plans and track the global health status of crew members to assist the Crew Medical Officer in the management of the crew health autonomously.

Crew members health will be monitored through an enhanced version of the Astroskin, a ‘smart' biometric garment fitted with sensors, which will continuously stream data to the SMDSS for analysis by interfacing to different data sources and applying algorithms. The SMDSS will guide the Crew Medical Officer through diagnostic flows established by experts and will provide insights on suggested therapeutic and/or countermeasures plans to monitor and treat crew members. Carré Technologies will implement a first artificial intelligence algorithms tool to diagnose cardiovascular arrhythmias and diseases and will establish the basis for future growth and additional algorithms.

A Lunar Medical Inc.
Hamilton, Ontario
$99,940 Hybrid Artificial Intelligence Architecture for Spaceflight Medical Decision Support System (Hybrid AI-DSS)

This concept study aims to develop the Hybrid AI-DSS. This solution will assist medical diagnostic and treatment decisions as well as support state monitoring and early onset detection during beyond low Earth orbit missions.

The Hybrid AI-DSS will be composed of integrated artificial intelligence and expert system elements that include an algorithmic, knowledge-based expert system, a Bayesian network probabilistic differential diagnosis engine, and machine learning components that provide ongoing data analysis and the establishment of spaceflight physiological and medical normal/abnormal differentiation. The system will be designed to assist both the Crew Medical Officer and other crew members with less medical knowledge, in the case where the Crew Medical Officer himself is incapacitated.

A Photon etc.
Montreal, Quebec
$98,092 Implementation of the Molecular Perceptron: a New Platform for Mapping Human Health via Spectroscopic Detection

The purpose of this concept study is to conceptualize a portable optical sensing system that will allow mapping of the human metabolome – the complete set of small molecules – to identify changes in a crew member's health.

Photon etc. proposes a durable and portable implant and detection system that will allow the real-time analysis of body fluids to detect a wide array of biomarkers, analytes and conditions, without requiring the withdrawal of blood. This decision support system will combine both artificial intelligence and minimally-invasive data collection to answer medical needs.

A Thales Canada Inc.
Quebec, Quebec
$97,823 Crew State Assessment and Management Support System

This concept study aims to explore the capability of a decision support system that will assess and manage human state.

This single data processing framework will be able to ingest various types of inputs, implement various types of models, and activate different forms of support, from warnings and recommendations to action plans in the form of event-sequence diagrams and countermeasures. The system will focus on the detection and management of a specific medical condition, acute coronary syndrome – a term that defines a range of conditions caused by a reduction of blood flow to the heart – and a specific psychological state, hypovigilance.

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

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.

B Neptec Design Group Ltd.
Kanata, Ontario
$99,190 Multimodal Functional Imaging Sensor

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.

B University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
$100,000 Spacecraft Medical Imaging System

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.

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

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.

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

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.

B Canadian Nuclear Laboratories
Chalk River, Ontario
$98,089 Neutron Dosimetry Solutions

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.

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

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.

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

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.

B ADGA Group Consultant Inc.
Gatineau, Quebec
$100,000 MedCoach

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.


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