UK astronauts answer call to help NHS mission

The UK Space Agency, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), has created a £2.6 million fund to stimulate new projects to aid the NHS in its fight against COVID-19.

With numerous factories being repurposed to add weight to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, it is becoming less unusual to see interesting characters pop-up alongside the NHS. JCB (which traditionally makes tractors) has teamed up with Dyson (which manufacturers vacuum cleaners) to produce ventilators, and now the astronauts are arriving with gadgets and super-speed software.

“From new advanced software helping speed up cancer diagnoses to satellite communications connecting GPs to patients virtually, the UK space sector has been world leading in applying its innovations to supporting our brilliant NHS,” said Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

“This new funding will ensure that the latest innovations will be on the frontline of tackling the unique problems the coronavirus outbreak has created, helping medical staff to focus on delivering world-class care.”

How this money could be spent is anyone’s guess for the moment, but the idea is fuel new ideas to ease the burden on the UK’s health system. Some of the applications could include:

  • Satellite communications to enable remote doctor appointments
  • Developing more compact and efficient diagnosis machinery
  • Logistics within the health delivery system, perhaps using drones
  • Systems to aid the recovery process once the outbreak calms and handling backlogs after the crisis
  • Applications to measure the effectiveness of social distancing

“Even in normal times, satellites and space technology offer solutions to our needs in connectivity and inclusion, in resilience and logistics, and to support healthcare provision in even the most extreme situations,” said Nick Appleyard, Head of Downstream Business Applications for the ESA.

“The current circumstances challenge the space business community to show just how much it can offer, to help us through this a once in a century event. Speed is of the essence, so let us act without delay.”

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