The small-satellite launch company Virgin Orbit has developed a new ventilator meant to be mass-producible to help support teams taking care of patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, another space company in the Virgin Group are putting forth an effort to aid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virgin Orbit worked with physicians and medical-device experts at the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin, as part of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, a group formed recently to quickly find a solution to the shortage of ventilators during the pandemic.
While Virgin Orbit is usually building space technology, the new device is a ventilator designed for partially recovered patients and those not in intensive care, called a "bridge" ventilator. Such devices could free up more powerful, intensive care capable ventilators for patients in more severe conditions, the company said in a statement Monday (March 30).
"Getting ventilators out there is very important to save lives," Dr. Brian J.F. Wong, an assistant chairman of otolaryngology (the study of the ears, nose and throat) at UCI who is a part of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, said in the statement. "The demand outstrips supply, so it is important the government, industry, academia, non-profits and the community work together to identify solutions, and design and construct them as fast as possible."
Virgin Orbit's version is designed to be mass-produced, and the company hopes that a design will be ready for production in early April, according to the statement.
But Virgin Orbit isn't the only Virgin Group company stepping up to the plate.
According to a statement from Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Group are all helping with relief efforts.
All over the globe, we are seeing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by our in-house flight doctors, our team is working to provide help. We have donated medical supplies to local hospitals including several hundred N95 masks plus suits, and gloves. https://t.co/0okTApTmr6 pic.twitter.com/JstEG1TqRDMarch 30, 2020
In-house flight doctors Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company building a fleet of suborbital SpaceShipTwo spaceliners, are part of a team at the company that is providing support for hospitals, medical equipment suppliers and the government. The company has so far donated supplies targeted to the coronavirus, including masks (including N95 masks), protective suits, gloves and Powered Air Purifying Respirators, to a number of hospitals.
W are donating PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirators) to local hospitals. These machines offer additional protection for the front-line workers who are in the closest physical proximity to those patients suffering from COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/iaVPRGTOm4March 30, 2020
Virgin Galactic is also working to acquire and donate additional equipment and supplies and are helping facilities in Mexico and California to buy faster testing equipment.
Virgin Galactic engineers and outside collaborators are designing a low-cost oxygen hood; these tools can help patients who do not yet need ventilators but are having some trouble breathing.
We are bringing food to front line health workers and other support organizations who need help, through the delivery of boxed lunches to medical centers in New Mexico — and Snack Nation snack boxes to Mojave High School and Grace Resources in California. pic.twitter.com/U3a7ZFD75XMarch 30, 2020
The company is also helping to provide food and medical supplies to medical centers in New Mexico and California.
In addition to these efforts to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Virgin Galactic is also launching a live, online educational video series. The series, Spacechat LIVE, is part of the company's Galactic Unite outreach initiative and will run every Thursday on the company's YouTube channel.
This Thursday (April 2), in the first episode of the series, Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic's Chief Astronaut Instructor, will chat about what it's like to go to space. The episode will air at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT).
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