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Medtronic’s Tiny Pacemaker Goes to Space

The medical device company, along with its young project leader, will analyze how the high radiation and low temperatures affect the Micra pacemaker.

Medtronic’s Tiny Pacemaker Goes to Space
The Micra TPS next to a large pill. Photo courtesy of Medtronic.
Medtronic’s new pacemaker, the vitamin pill-sized Micra TPS, will skyrocket into space Thursday morning from NASA’s launch pad in Virginia.
 
The launch is taking place as part of a science experiment first proposed by 17-year-old Shelbi Klingsporn of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
 
Klingsporn, who first took an interest in pacemakers after a friend was fitted with one at an early age, proposed the idea to Cubes in Space, a private education program that partners with NASA.
 
Per the requirements of the program, the Micra pacemaker will be placed in a cube 4 centimeters each in length, width and height. The device, along with other experiments packed into the same sized cubes, will be placed in a sounding rocket, or research rocket, that NASA typically uses to take measurements of scientific instruments sent into space.
 
The sounding rocket is sent on an arced path, meaning it will fly up and back down to Earth.
 
The force of the liftoff and ascension, according to Medtronic’s senior project manager Wade Demmer, would create vibrations “worse than a paint shaker” for the pacemaker, not to mention the likely rough landing that will occur.
 
Through the experiment, Klingsporn and Medtronic are hoping to understand the effects of high radiation and low temperatures on the Micra device during spaceflight.
 
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for us,” Demmer said in a statement. “The flight conditions go beyond what we test for on Earth. The idea that we might learn something that could impact the future of medical device development is exciting.”
 
NASA plans to live stream the rocket launch, which is set to lift off between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.
 
Medtronic, the Irish-domiciled medical device maker with an operational headquarters in Fridley, is currently the only company to offer a leadless pacemaker (the Micra) with FDA approval.
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