SPACE-H – Technologies for the Final Frontier of Healthcare

By Elizabeth Reynolds, Managing Director – Starburst Aerospace, USA


We are entering a new era of space exploration, marked by unprecedented ambitions, advancements, collaborations, and challenges that significantly diverge from those of the past. With the advent of the commercial space industry, commercial players are poised to be a primary driver of human spaceflight activity, and NASA’s focus on space exploration is taking on a new dimension: under the Artemis program, NASA is set to return humans to the Moon and establish sustainable lunar operations as a foundation for future deep space missions.


Embarking on journeys into the vast, unforgiving expanse of space is not easy, and there is a need for new ways of thinking, for new commercial partners to support NASA in the development of novel technologies to address the healthcare challenges associated with space exploration. There is a need to develop new tools and new systems to manage to support a more diverse pool of space travelers on longer missions, accommodate more pre-existing conditions, and enable a wider range of in-space activities.


Space is among the harshest and least hospitable environments for humans. Every human biological system is affected by the space environment. The biological stress has a deleterious impact on health and physical capabilities, and the extreme conditions and isolation take a significant toll on mental performance and behavior. Long-term habitation in micro-gravity is known to cause muscle atrophy, bone density loss, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular issues, vision degradation, sinus inflammation, sleep disorders, nausea, and a range of other detrimental impacts to physical health. For space travelers going beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), cosmic radiation poses a significant threat; radiation damages DNA and leads to increased risk of contracting cancer.


And if that wasn’t enough, life in space is simply uncomfortable. Many space travelers experience motion sickness: space-adaptation syndrome, or SAS. Without gravity, blood and other bodily fluids behave differently, leading to vision impairment, cognitive issues, and headaches. Increased CO2–compared to Earth–can also contribute to headaches and cause fatigue. Astronauts wear uncomfortable sensors to monitor their bio-signs, eat pre-packaged/pre-processed food, sleep restlessly in confined spaces, and forego any semblance of privacy.


Space tourism, lunar exploration, and missions to Mars—all technically challenging in their own right— greatly exacerbate the health and performance challenges faced. Not only do health and performance monitoring, management and mitigation systems need to be completely autonomous, but each must also account for a much wider range of human genetics and behaviors. Our best understanding of the harsh effects of space on human health is severely limited by the quantity and availability of data gathered from the approximately 650 people who have been to space to date. Thus, new technologies for supporting a more medically diverse population of future astronauts are critically needed.


As we venture into uncharted territory, there is a remarkable opportunity for healthcare startups to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of space health. The convergence of data, artificial intelligence, and other health and life sciences (HLS) technologies presents an exciting frontier. Even companies that have never considered the space industry could find immense success and create entirely new markets. After all, space has always been a fertile ground for innovation and technological leaps.


Now is a pivotal moment, enabling new opportunities for collaboration between NASA, startups, corporations, and investors to define the future of human activity in space. The convergence of once-in-a-generation trends in commercial spaceflight, artificial intelligence, and bioscience technologies will unlock the potential for entrepreneurs working in BioTech and MedTech–who may not have ever considered space to be a market—to launch high-impact, high-growth startups.


To that end, Starburst Aerospace (Starburst) has launched a new space health accelerator program: SPACE-H. The program, designed in collaboration with NASA Human Research Program (HRP), the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), and Microsoft Federal (Microsoft) will serve to drive innovation and investment in technologies that support NASA and the commercial space industry missions and advance the emerging industry of space health.


For the inaugural year of Space-H, the focus will be on resilient, autonomous health and performance systems. In support of Artemis and future deep space exploration, NASA is seeking commercial partners to support the development of fully autonomous, integrated medical systems to monitor and manage the health of individuals and teams. Solutions sought include but are not limited to:

  • AI for system-level autonomy to enable fully autonomous, multi-modal systems to model risks, predict outcomes, and prioritize actions while far from Earth;
  • Synthetic data to test data integration and outputs without access to restricted astronaut data;
  • Computational biology solutions to understand the effects of molecular damage on biological systems, assess long-term risks, and enable precise/personalized medical care;
  • Compact, lightweight, efficient, multifunctional medical devices to enable every day and medical emergencies;
  • Sensors to monitor environmental and physiological health, cognitive health and crew performance, sleep quality and activity levels, and sensorimotor adaptation to changes in gravity;
  • Novel solutions to manufacture pharmaceuticals in the space environment;
  • Biomedical technologies to model diseases, test drug toxicity and response, and predict efficacy of treatments.

Participants of the SPACE-H accelerator program, in addition to individualize mentorship from Starburst, will receive guidance for developing their solutions for use in space from space health subject matter experts, gain exposure to a network of over 2,000 external funders and investors in the A&D industry, and receive insight into the ways that entrepreneurs can work with NASA and other space organizations.


Microsoft, a global leader in technology and innovation, is supporting this initiative through mentorship and by providing participants with access to cutting-edge cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies on the Azure platform through Microsoft for Startups. This collaboration underscores Microsoft’s commitment to advancing space exploration and fostering the next generation of space pioneers.


Applications for SPACE-H are now open! To read more about the challenge, topics, and to apply, please visit


*The SPACE-H program is entirely free for participants. Equity is not required in exchange for participation.



Starburst Aerospace is an innovation catalyst in the global Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry. Combining three complementary activities—accelerators, consulting, & ventures—they help stakeholders innovate, navigate and invest in the dynamic ecosystem. More information about Starburst can be found at


Elizabeth Reynolds is the Managing Director of Starburst Aerospace’s US business. Ms. Reynolds is a champion of the aerospace renaissance, aligning early-stage technology innovators with government and commercial stakeholders and investors at the conjunction of emerging trends in aerospace, defense, biotechnology, and their associated enabling technologies.