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Human Research Program

Flexible Ultrasound System

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Flexible Ultrasound System
The Flexible Ultrasound System (FUS) is a technology development project that addresses NASA’s gap in non-invasive diagnostic capability for imaging of internal body parts on future Exploration missions. Ultrasound will be the “workhorse” internal imaging modality on such missions due to its portability, low power consumption, and avoidance of the use of ionizing radiation. State of the art clinical ultrasound units offer excellent and ever-expanding diagnostic capabilities, but they are difficult to adapt toward accommodating novel custom scans and therapeutic algorithms developed by NASA and its research partners. The FUS-GDU (ground demonstration unit) is an effort to address this gap by introducing advanced research level system access into a clinical diagnostic scanner, while simultaneously expanding the system’s functionality with additional hardware capabilities.


1. To develop an open architecture ultrasound device that would provide ultrasound imaging and therapies simultaneously with a single integrated system.

2. To provide a higher degree of control over the scanning parameters and greater access to the raw ultrasound data, thereby facilitating advanced algorithm development.

3. To identify a path to qualifying medical ultrasound systems for deep space exploration missions by functioning more readily with radiation-tolerant processes.

Methods: The FUS is based on a clinical scanner, the GE Vivid-E95 with modifications to allow researchers to develop advanced algorithms. There are two separately partitioned hard drives and interfaces with which an FUS user can perform ultrasound scans.

The clinical user can scan with the FUS in the same manner as a regular Vivid-e95 machine, with all of its FDA (Food & Drug Administration) clearances intact. Research users must boot the machine into a special research mode with a dongle to invoke the applications programming interface (API) for communicating between investigator-developed software and the lower level hardware. Software development kits (SDK) provide both Matlab and C++ programming capability for investigators using FUS. Specially developed external hardware for the FUS permits the accommodation of novel ultrasound probes, higher power output level than traditional clinical scanning, and the use of a dual probe transmit/receive configuration.

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