Are commercial, off-the shelf (COTS) portable X ray machines likely to work in manned spacecraft, or are there technical reasons why they would need to be significantly modified?

Do you feel is it feasible to install and check the functions working of the portable X Ray machines in the International Space Station (ISS) for testing?

In case no, How testing can be performed?

portable X-ray machine

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1 Answer 1


Partial answer:

There are several different kinds of X-ray machines in a well-equipped hospital. These days the sensors are all electronic rather than using photographic negatives or X-ray film, and this allowed for the development of computer aided tomography (CT scan or "CAT scan") where many X-ray images are taken from many closely-spaced angles around a subject and a computer program calculates what 3D distribution of absorption would lead to all those images.

One of the reasons that these machines are so bulky is gravity, you have to suspend the patient and the rotating X-ray source and detector rigidly as they move against even tiny deflections due to gravity.

In a microgravity environment in spaceflight you would have the same rigidity requirement for the same resolution, but now as long as the subject could remain relatively motionless there are opportunities to make a much, much lighter structure that could simply spin the system around the patient, or better yet; spin the patient within the system since they're simply floating inside it!

A slowly spinning patient would provide some spin stabilization during the scan (similarly to the way spacecraft are stabilized), and some form of reference points (dots on critical areas of the subject or pattern recognition) to correct the tomography for small drifts are an opportunity for new technological developments in space medicine!

GE LightSpeed CT scanner at Open House, Monroeville, Pennsylvania

above: GE LightSpeed CT scanner at Open House, Monroeville, Pennsylvania source, below: Mobile X-ray machine]source

Mobile X-ray machine

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    $\begingroup$ There are no gravity-dependent components in a typical x-ray machine, about the only likely impediment is cooling. Many electronic circuit boards, motors and actuators assume that they will be cooled by gravity-fed air convection, and can run into problems in zero-g where convection simply does not happen. However, it should be relatively easy to locate such issues and figure out alternate solutions, like simply mounting a fan where needed. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2021 at 19:07

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