Virtual reality (VR) medical simulation firm SimX Inc and the United States Space Force (USSF) will soon train staff for astronaut recoveries and global space launches.

The USSF awarded SimX’s Virtual Advancement of Learning for Operational Readiness (VALOR) programme a multi-year collaboration for VR medical simulation training.

These will upskill US Air Force (USAF) Pararescue Specialists, Combat Rescue Officers, flight surgeons, and others for key space missions. Medical professionals can train astronauts for numerous key scenarios and treat uncommon medical conditions.

The training programme will operate on HTC VIVE’s fully-wireless Focus 3 headsets, the company said.

The solution is one of many extended reality (XR) solutions the US Department of Defense (US DOD) has procured to streamline and enhance operations.

VR Medical Training Funding

SimX plans to use roughly $1.7 million USD in funding to upgrade its VR Medical Simulation System (VRMSS) for “space-specific components” and medical simulations “outlined by the existing pre-Hospital Space Medicine Care Course (PHSMCC).

SpaceWERX Phase II Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR) contract has funded the partnership. The US Space Systems Command along with other divisions have co-managed the solution. Further testing with the USAF 24th Special Operations Wing and others will ensure the programme’s success.

A Space Training XR Ecosystem?

The solution aims to provide faster, repetitive, effective, and cost-effective training for medical teams. This will ensure “better medical outcomes for astronauts and space launch personnel,” SimX said.

SimX will also launch the programme as a commercially-available solution to back the growing human spaceflight industry. These may consist of companies such as SpaceX, Blue Ocean, and Virgin Galactic.

The trainer will initially offer support for Dragon and Orion capsules along with multiple launch scenarios from global locations. It will also include a comprehensive training curriculum featuring physiological challenges of astronauts returning to Earth from long-duration space flights.

SimX Chief Technology Officer and VALOR Principal Investigator, Karthik V Sarma, PhD, said,

“The mission of the VALOR program is to adapt VR medical simulation training to enable high-quality, repeatable, and accessible clinical training for any scenario. We’re honored to have the opportunity to take the VRMSS to the next frontier by helping the DOD’s elite medical personnel protect the health of our astronauts and space launch personnel”

Brent Maney, the Department of Defense’s Human Space Fight Support Office, added,

“The mission impact of this project will be increased overall medical capability for global rescue forces responding to Human Space Flight contingency landings. These capabilities are critical for ensuring the highest standard of care is provided by our PJs as they prepare for the continued expansion of Human Space Flight operations”

Global leaders have also leveraged SimX’s VR medical simulation platform for training staff. Institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern, the US Air Force, Stanford, and others have empowered staff with the cutting-edge trainer.

Users can work at the same time in virtual spaces from any physical location via a “holodeck-like” experience. Trainees can also top the scalable SimX Scenario System to rapidly build and deploy training materials for learners as well.

US Department of Defense XR Ambitions

The news comes after the USAF filed several trademarks in April last year with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademark Attorney Mike Kondoudis tweeted the filings, revealing patents for a SPACEVERSE to train staff using extended reality (XR) solutions.

The patents defined the SPACEVERSE at the time as “a secure digital metaverse that converges terrestrial and space physical and digital realities and provides synthetic and simulated extended-reality (XR) training, testing, and operations environments.”

SimX’s latest offering joins several efforts from the DoD, including a remote collaboration tool with Fairbanks Morse Defense, USSOCOM’s Eolian tactical augmented reality (AR) headsets, and Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) combat headsets, among many others.

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