spaceMIRA becomes the first surgical robot in space through partnership with the University of Nebraska and NASA

LINCOLN, Neb. and CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – January 30, 2024 – Virtual Incision Corporation, the developer of the MIRA Surgical System (MIRA), today announced that spaceMIRA is currently in transit to the International Space Station. The device is aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The 2024 technology demonstration mission is driven by a grant awarded from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the University of Nebraska through the Established Program to Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program.

Testing with spaceMIRA on the International Space Station will assess the impact of zero gravity when performing simulated surgical tasks. During a portion of the experiment, a surgeon operator at Virtual Incision’s headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska will utilize remote-controlled technology to direct the movements of the robot.

Learnings about remote surgery could potentially impact healthcare in space and across the globe. In the U.S. alone, one-third of counties do not currently have access to a local surgeon,1 and the shortage of surgeons could rise to more than 30,000 within the next ten years.2 Remote surgery could serve as an option for these patients by enabling procedures to be performed from a distant location.

The ideal device for these applications would be controlled by a surgeon through a console, enabling them to direct the movements of a camera and instruments inside the patient’s body. This type of technology, called robotic-assisted surgery (RAS), has been available for decades. While some exploratory work in remote surgery has been conducted, it is still typically performed with the surgeon in the same operating room as the patient.3 Although there are many complexities associated with remote operations, miniaturization of RAS could be a breakthrough by dramatically simplifying workflows at the site where the patient is located.

MIRA, the first miniaturized robotic-assisted surgery (miniRAS) device in development, is roughly 1,000 times lighter than existing technologies. As the only small form factor RAS device, it has the potential to make remote surgery more feasible by enabling transportation, storage, and setup time at an unprecedented scale. The University of Nebraska researchers leveraged MIRA’s unique design to create an iteration that enables pre-programmed as well as long-distance remote surgery operation modes.

“When we started this work at the University of Nebraska, we shared a collective vision that miniRAS could make robotic-assisted surgery available to any patient, any time, anywhere,” said Shane Farritor, Ph.D., co-founder and chief technology officer at Virtual Incision and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Nebraska. “Exploring the use of miniRAS in extreme environments helps our teams understand how we can remove barriers for patients.”

“As thrilling as it is to have our technology in space, we expect the impact of this research will be most notable on Earth,” said John Murphy, president and CEO of Virtual Incision. “The introduction of miniRAS has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by making every operating room robot ready. We are taking a significant step by developing MIRA, an investigational device currently under review by the FDA. The testing with spaceMIRA will tell us more about the future potential of miniRAS as it might be applied to remote surgery applications.”

About the MIRA Surgical System

MIRA is the world’s first miniaturized robotic-assisted surgery (miniRAS) system in development by Virtual Incision. Its small, sleek form factor is designed to offer the benefits of RAS during abdominal surgical procedures without the logistical inefficiencies of traditional mainframe robotics. The easily accessible device weighs approximately two pounds and offers internal triangulation with shoulders, arms, and infinite wrist roll inside of the body. It can be used in any operating room – a dedicated mainframe room is unnecessary. With its drape- and dock-free design and portability, MIRA is quick to set up, clean up, and move between cases. Its conveniently accessible design positions it to be used as a standalone system or a complementary tool for facilities that already own a mainframe. With MIRA, every operating room is RAS-ready. The MIRA Surgical System is an Investigational Device and is not available for sale.

About the spaceMIRA Surgical System

spaceMIRA is a specially designed space-focused iteration of MIRA, the world’s first miniaturized robotic-assisted surgery (miniRAS) system. Similar to MIRA, its small and sleek design aims to offer the capabilities of robotic-assisted surgery (RAS) in a compact and convenient form factor. The modifications of spaceMIRA enable pre-programmed and long- distance remote surgery capabilities for the experiment on the International Space Station (ISS).

About Virtual Incision

Virtual Incision is on a mission to simplify robotic-assisted surgery (RAS), so more patients and their surgeons can access its benefits every day. Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, and holding over two hundred patents and patent applications, the company is developing MIRA, the first-of-its-kind miniature RAS system. Virtual Incision’s goal is to make every operating room RAS-ready. For more information, visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn and X.

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[1] Belsky D, Ricketts T, Poley S, Gaul K, Fraher E, Sheldon G. Surgical deserts in the US: Places without surgeons. American College of Surgeons Health Policy Research Institute. Available at:∼/media/files/advocacy/hpri/surgicaldesertsinus.ashx.

[2] AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage. (2021, June 11). AAMC. Retrieved January 22, 2024, from

[3] Barba P, Stramiello J, Funk EK, Richter F, Yip MC, Orosco RK. Remote telesurgery in humans: a systematic review. Surg Endosc. 2022 May;36(5):2771-2777.

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