The device was tested as part of Cubes in Space, a private education program that partners with the National Air & Space Administration to encourage students and educators to engage in science and space exploration. The Micra device used in the experiment was secured in a 4cm cube, according to Fridley, Minn.-based Medtronic.
The experiment was the idea of 17-year-old Shelbi Klingsporn, who said she learned about pacemakers after a friend needed one at an early age. After researching Micra, Klingsporn submitted the project looking to launch the highly engineered device to test the effects of space travel.
A specially modified Micra device rode 73 miles into sub-orbit aboard NASA’s 36-foot Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket June 22, experiencing more than 20 times the force of gravity, extreme vibration, temperatures reaching 140ºF, radiation and a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
“This isn’t a manned rocket. It doesn’t come with the protections that an astronaut gets,” senior program manager Wade Demmer said in prepared remarks. “In some ways this is well beyond what they’d ever send an astronaut into. So to know that Micra was still operating properly after all that is a really good feeling.”
Demmer interrogated the device, which was modified to simulate pacing therapy, to find that Micra increased its pacing rate during the flight and lowered it afterward.
“Micra interpreted the shaking as exercise and increased its pacing, which is what it’s supposed to do,” Demmer explained. “That means the accelerometer inside the device is also working. Great news.”
“This test doesn’t mean that anyone with a pacemaker can go into space,” he added. “But the idea that someone with a medical device might someday be able to travel into space isn’t as far-fetched today as it was yesterday.”