Research & Innovation

“Artery in Microgravity”: PoliTO research flies to the space station with ESA

23 March 2022

Politecnico will fly to the International Space Station (ISS). Thanks to the research work of Stefano Gabetti and Elena Torta (PhD candidates at Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering-DIMEAS), supervised by Professor Umberto Morbiducci (DIMEAS), the Politecnico was selected by the European Space Agency ESA within the program "Orbit Your Thesis!" for the "Artery in Microgravity" (AIM) project - developed in collaboration with colleagues of the ISAE SUPAERO University of Toulouse - to send into space the materials for a biomedical experiment.

The AIM project - carried out for the scientific part by PoliTO researchers and for the structural part by the French colleagues - consists of a compact test bed that aims to simulate the behavior of a diseased and of a stented artery in microgravity conditions.

Gravity plays an important role in cardiovascular biomechanics, because it influences both macroscopic variables - such as pressure - and local hemodynamics. In particular, increased transmural pressure of vessels may increase the risk of rupture, whereas altered hemodynamics may increase the possibility of formation of thrombogenic areas. AIM simulates these coronary problems, also measuring pressure changes and visualizing blood flow behavior.

The system is contained in a small cube - about 2000 cm3 - according to the standards of the "ICE Cubes Facility", managed by Space Applications Services on board the ISS, where it will be installed by astronauts and then remotely controlled by researchers on Earth, who will thus be able to obtain valuable data on the behavior of cardiovascular mechanics in space compared to terrestrial conditions. In addition, the experiment will permit to analyze the effect of gravity on the performance of endovascular medical devices.

AIM's cube recently passed the latest ESA tests and inspections to ensure that the materials for the experiment meet safety standards for the journey to the ISS and proper installation aboard the station. After some mechanical and electrical modifications, the team was able to establish a remote connection to the experiment and operate it as if it was already on the International Space Station. This was the last test in a series of environmental checks such as electromagnetic compatibility, vacuum, sound/noise levels and vibration. Once the tests are complete, the researchers presented the final data to the ESA Academy and an ESA Safety panel, thus clearing the final hurdle of the Flight Acceptance Review. The AIM team is now ready for the launch, which is scheduled for June 2022 with the SpaceX Crew Resupply Service-25 cargo spaceship.


About Orbit Your Thesis! (OYT)

OYT! is an ESA educational project, part of the ESA Academy programme for university students to get hands-on experience of the full life cycle of a real space project, and to be better prepared and qualified for a career in the European space sector.

Original English source articles and images courtesy of ESA