Successful Flight Experiment Today on the Blue Origin New Shepard

Orbital Medicine achieves successful test flight with specialized medical device for collapsed lungs in space

Suction device could save lives in space and would be required for Moon, Mars missions

RICHMOND, VA (DECEMBER 12, 2017) – Private aerospace company Blue Origin launched its New Shepard space vehicle on Dec 12 with a payload that included a medical device to treat traumatic chest trauma in a zero-gravity space environment.

The Evolved Medical Microgravity Suction Device, developed by C. Marsh Cuttino, MD and his team at Orbital Medicine Inc. in Richmond, could assist in treatment of a collapsed lung where air and blood enter the pleural cavity. The payload – which included the device along with a hemothorax simulator – was constructed in collaboration with the Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

In the event an astronaut suffers from a collapsed lung (traumatic pneumothorax) in space, they must return to Earth quickly for medical treatment with gravity-dependent collectors that will not work in a zero-gravity environment. The Orbital Medicine Evolved Medical Microgravity Suction Device, however, is able to collect blood in microgravity, and still allows for the suction to continuously inflate the lung and allow it to heal. The device is constructed so blood can be collected and transfused into an injured astronaut.

The payload test apparatus has a microgravity suction system, collection device, and pneumothorax simulator. The apparatus simulates an injured person, and shows how the device removes the air and blood to promote healing.

“My hope is that in the future, this type of medical device will be able to save the life of an astronaut, to continue their mission of exploration,” Dr. Cuttino said. “These types of medical treatment options will be required to explore the Moon and Mars.”

The Orbital Medicine payload flew onboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard system, a space vehicle capable of vertical takeoffs and landings and able to carry hundreds of pounds of payloads per flight. New Shepard is expected to ultimately carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space.  

Orbital Medicine’s suction device technology was selected in November 2015 under a NASA Flight Opportunities Grant, and has already flown on parabolic flights with program funding. Previous parabolic flights helped to refine the design, and paved the way for the current private test with Blue Origin.


Orbital Medicine Inc. was founded by Charles Marsh Cuttino, MD to develop and provide healthcare solutions for the space environment. Dr. Cuttino is a board-certified emergency physician who is experienced in aerospace medicine, disaster, and mass casualty medicine. A former professor, he is currently the Chairman of Emergency Medicine for a five-hospital system and a Federal Aviation Administration Aviation Medical Examiner. He has provided past medical support for NASA Space Shuttle operations, and continues to research microgravity medical issues. For more information, visit

Photos courtesy of Blue Origin

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