The device is designed to "free up the nation's limited supply of traditional ventilators, so they may be used on patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms," according to NASA.
The machine is not intended to replace current ventilators, NASA said in a subsequent Friday statement, noting that VITAL is designed to last as many as four months and is “specifically tailored” to treat novel coronavirus patients.
For instance, VITAL is designed to offer more oxygen at higher pressures than traditional models because many of the most acute patients require that specified level of care, CNN reported.
"Intensive care units are seeing COVID-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators," Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA's chief health and medical officer, said in a statement, adding, "The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance."
VITAL, developed by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also use fewer parts than typical ventilators, most of which are available in current supply chains, meaning it can be built more quickly, CNN reported.
"We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing," JPL Director Michael Watkins said in a statement, adding, "But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive."