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Communication Bandwidth Considerations for Exploration Medical Care During Space MissionsDestinations beyond low Earth orbit, especially Mars, have several important constraints, including limited resupply, limited to no possibility of medical evacuation, and delayed communication with ground support teams. Therefore, medical care is driven towards greater autonomy and necessitates a medical system that supports this paradigm, including the potential for high medical data transfer rates in order to share medical information and coordinate care with the ground in an intermittent fashion as communication allows. The medical data transfer needs for a Martian exploration mission were estimated by defining two medical scenarios that would require high data rate communications between the spacecraft and Earth. One medical scenario involves a case of hydronephrosis (outflow obstruction of the kidney) that evolves into pyelonephritis (kidney infection), then urosepsis (systemic infection originating from the kidney), due to obstruction by a kidney stone. A second medical scenario involved the death of a crewmember’s child back on Earth that requires behavioral health care. For each of these scenarios, a data communications timeline was created following the medical care described by the scenario. From these timelines, total medical data transfers and burst transmission rates were estimated. Total data transferred from the vehicle-to-ground were estimated to be 94 gigabytes (GB) and 835 GB for the hydronephrosis and behavioral health scenarios, respectively. Data burst rates were estimated to be 7.7 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 15 MB/s for the hydronephrosis and behavioral health scenarios, respectively. Even though any crewed Mars mission should be capable of functioning autonomously, as long as the possibility of communication between Earth and Mars exists, Earth-based subject matter experts will be relied upon to augment mission medical capability. Therefore, setting an upper boundary limit for medical communication rates can help factor medical system needs into total vehicle communication requirements.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Krihak, Michael (Universities Space Research Association (USRA) Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Middour, Christopher (Millennium Engineering and Integration Co. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Reyes, David (Texas Univ. Galveston, TX, United States)
Nusbaum, Derek (Texas Univ. Galveston, TX, United States)
Antonsen, Erik (Baylor Coll. of Medicine Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
March 16, 2020
Publication Date
August 1, 2019
Subject Category
Space Communications, Spacecraft Communications, Command and Tracking
Aerospace Medicine
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
Single Expert

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