UTMB, NASTAR Team for Spaceflight Passenger Research

Centrifuge used for pilot and passenger training. (Credit: NASTAR)
Centrifuge used for pilot and passenger training. (Credit: NASTAR)

GALVESTON, Texas (UTMB PR) – People have dreamed of traveling to space and gazing back at earth since the dawn of time, but until recently space travel has been something reserved for a select few, mainly astronauts. Now with the advent of commercial suborbital space travel, that opportunity is closer than ever before for everyday citizens.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in collaboration with the National Aerospace Training and Research Center in Southampton, Pennsylvania, is conducting research into the safety training programs that will be used to train spaceflight passengers.

Devising these training programs is a key step in preparing for commercial suborbital space travel because it must first be determined what training and preparation private citizens will need for their trip.

Researchers are currently seeking volunteer participants to experience a simulated suborbital spaceflight. The simulated flight will be produced using a high performance centrifuge.

The simulator is capable of generating high onset-offset, G-forces similar to those that might be experienced in high performance aircraft or spacecraft without having to take people into the sky.

Previous studies have investigated how laypersons will tolerate the acceleration exposures involved in suborbital rocket flight. Data from those studies found that nearly all individuals with well-controlled medical conditions should have no trouble with the moderate acceleration that sends a craft into a suborbital spaceflight.

“This bodes well for commercial spaceflight,” said Dr. James Vanderploeg, the principal investigator of the current study. “We are aiming for space tourism, or making spaceflight available to the general public.”

In the current study, the researchers are looking into how much preparation time future space travelers will need before a flight and which types of training approaches work best.

Study participants will train at the NASTAR Center near Philadelphia, and then be evaluated. In addition to the centrifuge based simulator, training will also be provided on certain techniques that are commonly used to combat the physiological effects of G-forces.

The knowledge obtained from this research study may improve future suborbital spaceflight training and simulation for those able to participate in such travel.

Anyone interested in volunteering to be a research participant can visit www.utmbamc.com/research.cfm for more information.