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Astronauts are subject to a high level of physical stress in weightlessness. The continuous monitoring of important bodily functions, especially of the cardiovascular system, is therefore urgently required during the stay in space. Findings from space medicine can also be applied to the diagnosis of heart diseases, which are the most common cause of death worldwide. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, the cost of cardiovascular diseases in 2015 amounted to EUR 46.4 billion. Systems currently used for cardiac diagnostics offer only limited possibilities for monitoring high-risk patients or can only be used for inpatient treatment. The “Dr. Beat” project relies on ballistocardiography (BCG), originally developed for space, which can record actual heart function using modern, digital microelectronics. Within the scope of the project, a high-precision and cost-effective BCG sensor system is being developed that can be worn on the body as a “wearable” and enables continuous health monitoring. The extensive signal processing, data evaluation and diagnostics will be automated by means of artificial intelligence (AI) and should not only provide new insights into space medicine but also improve diagnostics and early detection of cardiological diseases in everyday life.
The project encouraged us to continue working on the technology and the potential for marketing was noted by many. However, the project also showed us that a large amount of research is still required before a marketable product can be created, and the project showed us the construction sites along the way. A transfer back to space applications through the connection of the INNOspace Masters to the DLR is now more tangible than before.
The monitoring of vital parameters in astronautical spaceflight also has great potential for preventive health care and for medical care on Earth. The partners of the Dr. Beat project want to harness this potential as a spin-off transfer. In turn, technological advancements also reveal new potential for applications within space travel in the context of the Artemis missions.