Short Radius Centrifuges – A New Approach for Life Science Experiments Under Hyper-g Conditions for Applications in Space and Beyond
Vanja Zander, Ralf Anken, Thomas Pesquet, Sonja Brungs and Joachim Latsch
Affiliation: Institute of Movement and Neurosciences German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf, D-50933 Cologne, Germany.
A broad variety of countermeasures on the effects of weightlessness on human physiology have been
developed and applied in the course of space exploration. Devices like treadmills, stretch ropes etc. have several
disadvantages in common: they require a significant amount of crew time and they may not efficiently counteract the
degradation of physiological structures and cellular functions. Some methods even include potentially painful or
uncomfortable procedures for the astronauts. Thus, the application of Artificial Gravity (AG) generated by short radius
centrifuges (they fit into space vessels) has been discussed and proposed by a number of scientists and space agencies as
an alternative countermeasure during long-term space missions. Although there is a profound knowledge concerning, e.g.,
the cardiovascular system and immune responses acquired on long radius centrifuges, there is a remarkable lack of
knowledge concerning the same issues on devices operating with short radius. In strict contrast to long radius centrifuges,
there is a significant gravity gradient in the head-to-toe axis which comes along with the short radius and higher relative
rotation velocity. Thus it is of utmost importance to continue investigating the effects of AG, especially by use of short
The Short Arm Human Centrifuge (SAHC) at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, Germany, is the most
advanced type of short radius centrifuges presently commercially available. Experience gained so far using the SAHC at
DLR revealed that future projects on centrifuge devices with short radius should aim at a clear identification of the
threshold level of the g-load, which is necessary to efficiently counteract the degradation of physical structures and an
efficient support of cellular functions. A satisfying result would be combined countermeasure methods applied at a
threshold concerning g-load and exposition time in the course of long-term sojourn in microgravity. Another future
control or monitoring method to exactly dose AG training is heart rate variability, which offers an insight into
neurovegetative and cardiovascular regulation.
Centrifuges like the SAHC are also useful platforms to accommodate small biological experiments, e.g., experiments
addressing the response of cultured cells to hypergravity.
Here, we briefly review the issue of short radius centrifuges and also address our experience hitherto gained during a
number of scientific projects carried out at the SAHC at DLR.
Keywords: Centrifuge, hyper-g, cardiovascular system, neurovestibular system, countermeasure, artificial gravity.
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