ABOVE: NASA engineer Mike Buttigieg works on an oxygen hood system prototype worn by Dr. Daniel Khodabakhsh from the Antelope Valley Hospital in California. The hood is designed to help coronavirus patients who don’t yet need a ventilator, but who are experiencing breathing troubles. The hood forces oxygen into patients with mild coronavirus symptoms, minimizing the likelihood that the patient will need to use a ventilator. (Credits: NASA/Carla Thomas)
NASA has joined forces with a task force in Antelope Valley, in northern Los Angeles County, California, to build medical devices to help patients with coronavirus (COVID-19).
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), and Antelope Valley College to come up with innovative ideas to solve possible shortages of critical medical equipment.
“NASA is more than scientists, engineers and explorers. We are neighbors and members of communities across the country,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “In a time like this, it’s critical that we contribute the vast expertise of our workforce to do all we can to help our neighbors, our communities, and the nation.”
This task force is working closely with medical professionals at the hospital to provide alternative solutions to needed equipment that is not available for a large-scale emergency.
One of their first efforts was to build a prototype oxygen hood that has now proven to work for the doctors at the hospital. The production of 500 will begin next week at TSC’s Faith Facility in Mojave.
“I’ve been inspired by the teamwork shown by the Antelope Valley task force in response to the challenge of COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we share knowledge, skills and collaborate,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “By producing several innovative health solutions for regional hospitals over a few weeks, we are protecting health care workers on the front lines while improving patient care. It is truly showing the best of American public-private cooperation.”
The device, developed by NASA engineer Mike Buttigieg, is an oxygen hood for COVID-19 patients exhibiting minor symptoms and will minimize the need for these patients to use ventilators. The device functions like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to force oxygen into a patient’s low-functioning lungs.
“We looked across our center’s expertise in innovation, engineering, design, and fabrication of unique systems, to bring NASA knowledge and people together to collaborate on solving the needs and challenges brought about by the COVID-19 situation,” said Armstrong Chief Technologist David Voracek.
NASA engineer Allen Parker and this team at Armstrong designed a canopy that protects health care workers by safely covering COVID-19 patients while still allowing health care providers access to the patients to provide care.
“The patient will be located inside this canopy where aerosol viral contaminants will be vacuumed out through a viral filter located within the canopy. In doing so, the health provider can freely work around the patient outside the canopy with minimal risk,” Parker said.
The ingenuity and teamwork displayed by NASA employees, along with their task force partners while in quarantine, may help us prepare for the future emergencies that affect the nation. Learn more about NASA’s efforts to aid in the national response to COVID-19 at https://www.nasa.gov/coronavirus.