About Dr. Cuttino

Dr. Marsh Cuttino is an Emergency Medicine physician in Richmond, VA. He is board certified in Emergency Medicine and a Fellow of both the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and the American College of Emergency Medicine. He was an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has worked at NASA as a launch and landing support physician for the Space Shuttle. He is active in microgravity medical research and has flown multiple campaigns on the NASA Parabolic Flight Laboratory, the "Weightless Wonder"

Orbital Medicine to assist Stanford EE Department with October Parabolic Flight testing

Dr. Cuttino and the Orbital Medicine, Inc (Richmond, VA) team will be assisting Dr. Greg Kovacs and his team from the Stanford EE department in parabolic flight testing aboard the NASA RGO Parabolic Flight Research Aircraft the first week of October 2012. Dr Cuttino is serving as the medical team lead and consultant, as well as supervising the IRB process for the experiment. The experiment is to evaluate a ballistocardiograph in the microgravity environment and was awarded a NASA Flight Opportunities Grant.

This will be the second Parabolic Microgravity Flight Campaign for Orbital Medicine in 2012.

First microgravity flight day

Orbital Medicine had a successful field test of the prototype structure for a medical chest drainage device today. The flight test took place from Ellington Field, TX with the NASA Reduced Gravity Office. Flown on the Zero G 727-200 parabolic aircraft, the device was tested under lunar and zero gravity conditions.  The first tested configurations successfully separated the simulated blood from the air under both gravity conditions and would provide an effective treatment of a pneumothorax in an emergency.

Further flight testing on additional configurations will continue through the end of the week. Two flight are planned for Thursday, weather permitting.

Flight week update

The Orbital Medicine research project has passed the NASA flight readiness review and has been loaded on the Zero G corporation 727-200 in the flight configuration. Should the weather hold out with a visible horizon tomorrow the chest tube drainage system will have it’s maiden microgravity flight thanks to NASA Flight Opportunities and the NASA Reduced Gravity Office.

Dr. Cuttino will be joined by Dr. Shawn Borich, and Dr. Greg Kovacs on the flight tomorrow. Ground support will be by Richard Wiard.

Orbital Medicine Microgravity Operations Patch

With the flight manifested I decided to celebrate the completion and submission of the Test Equipment Data Package with converting the mission art into a patch. There is a long history in aerospace of having patches associated with projects. The projects contain a visual symbolism that helps build the team and provides a visual shortcut to the essentials of the project.

The Orbital Medicine patch shows a black caduceus on a blue background. The caduceus is a commonly recognized symbol of the medical profession. The blue background represents the sky, and the black of the caduceus represents the darkness of space. It is surrounded by the company name and the phrase “Microgravity Operations” in reference to the zero gravity research done by the company.
To the right are icons representing the Earth, Moon, and Mars in a receding arrangement. This symbolizes the current and future targets for human spaceflight, and the areas in which space medicine will provide the support for human exploration.
To the left is a yellow symbol of a human electrocardiogram – the representation of a human heartbeat. It is placed to the left as that is the side of the body where the human heart is located. It represents the importance of medical monitoring, evaluation and treatment performed by the medical profession during medical flight operations. It is surrounded by a stylized constellation Libra, that represents the balance that medical operations have to take between the safety and treatment of humans, and the capabilities and mission requirements. It also represents the balancing act that physicians do when treating patients, and reminds us of the Hippocratic Oath “Above all, do no harm.”
At the bottom right of the caduceus is a stethoscope head, which curls into the exhaust of the stylized space ship launching to the top of the patch. The combining of the stethoscope and exhaust plume represent the ground based medical operations performed in support of flight operations.
The gold star in the center of the patch symbolizes the phrase “sic itur ad astra” translated “thus you shall go to the stars”. This phrase originated with the Latin writer Virgil, and comes from his book the Aeneid, book IX line 641. The phrase is commonly used in the space community to represent the dedication and aspirations of those involved in the space program to ensure humanity’s access to space.

Stay tuned, and “Ad Astra”!

Orbital Medicine’s NASA Parabolic Flight scheduled

The Orbital Medicine research flight has been manifested and scheduled by NASA. The flight is currently set for May 14-18th 2012 out of Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. This is the inital flight sponsored by the Flight Opportunities Program. The testing will be done in conjunction with the NASA Reduced Gravity Office.

Orbital Medicine will be evaluating a chest tube drainage device to determine its effectiveness in the microgravity environment. An educational demonstration will be filmed during the flight.

Additional experiments will be done in conjunction with Dr. Greg Kovacs of Stanford University. The inital Test Equipment Data Package has been completed and the experimental hardware is being finalized for the flight.

Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2012

Dr. Cuttino gave a presentation on medical clearance for suborbital spaceflight today at the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2012 in Palo Alto, California. The talk covered the aspects of medical clearance, what types of problems could be expected in suborbital spaceflight, and the regulating mechanisms in place by the FAA. The talk was well attended and well received.

The keynote talk at the conference was given by Neal Armstrong who discussed the development and flight testing of the X-15

A link to the talk abstract can be found here:


Increasing the Technology Readiness Level

Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a measure used by NASA, some United States government agencies and many of the world’s major companies (and agencies) to assess the maturity of evolving technologies (materials, components, devices, etc.) prior to incorporating that technology into a system or subsystem. Generally speaking, when a new technology is first invented or conceptualized, it is not suitable for immediate application. Instead, new technologies are usually subjected to experimentation, refinement, and increasingly realistic testing. Once the technology is sufficiently proven, it can be incorporated into a system or subsystem.

For NASA, TRL 6 involves system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment (Ground analog, microgravity flight)

TRL 7 is a system prototype in a space environment, and TRL 8 is an actual system completed, and “flight qualified” and evaluated for the space environment.

Usability and feasibility in microgravity

In space the lack of gravity has an often-unexpected influence on devices and their operation. Many devices that were developed for the terrestrial environment will simply not work in zero gravity. By having experienced researchers to assist with the development of your product, we can help insure a smoother testing and development phase.

Usability and feasibility in hypergravity (2 to 6 g’s)

Just as the factors of microgravity significantly change the operation of the device, when the device changes the effective weight during acceleration, unforeseen consequence can occur. An example from my own research demonstrates that the safety devices on IV needles will spontaneously fire during a hypergravity load of as little as 1.5 g, rendering them useless for gaining IV access.