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Microgravity Experiments

RUAG Space works closely with the European Space Agency and scientists from all over the world on ground-breaking projects which continue to push the boundaries of space exploration. As a key partner in Space and Low orbit exploration, RUAG Space has been building and launching complex microgravity experiments for the last 30 years....

Delivery by Soyuz TMA-01M of the PADIAC experiment on board of the ISS (Source: ESA)

Microgravity is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless. The effects of microgravity can be seen when astronauts and objects float in space. Over the years, thanks to its advanced skills and capabilities in mechatronic, fluidic, and thermal control but also, thanks to its deep understanding of space constraints, RUAG Space has developed an expertise on space microbioreactors. Such experiments are designed and produced to offer the scientific community a host, on board of the ISS for instance, able to validate the scientific requirements under space conditions.

A space bioreactor is a system in which we cultivate cells, microorganisms, or tissue in a controlled environment (PH, temperature, O2, nutriments, etc.) under microgravity space conditions. RUAG Space's bioreactors are about the development and use of space applications to improve the quality of life for citizens, today and tomorrow. With the development of microgravity experiments, RUAG Space fully supports the Swiss Space Implementation Plan and its willingness to push the exploration programs, especially the scientific utilization of the ISS. Some references include the following experiments.

Some applications:

3D Endothelial Cell Bioreactor (ISS)

Integration of the SPHEROIDS experiment

3D Endothelial Cell Bioreactor (ISS)

  • Goal of the experiment: To determine the effects of microgravity on endothelial cell function, their program of differentiation and to explore possible blood vessel formation.
  • Partners: Spacetek (CH)
  • Technical challenges:
    • Culture chambers (15 ml) for 3D mammalian cell growth, including passive mixing and external membrane aeration system.
    • Automated sampling, feeding and fixation (RNAlater, PFA or other) system preserving aggregate morphology.
  • Flight: SpaceX CRS-8 (ISS) 2016

Seedling Cultivation (Sounding Rocket)

Integration of the BIM experiment

Seedling Cultivation (Sounding Rocket)

  • Goal of the Experiment: Study the behavior of proteins in plants roots during microgravity conditions
  • Partners: Freiburg University (DE), Swedish Space Corporation SSC (Sweden)
  • Technical challenges:
    • Thermally and pressure regulated module with 36 experiment cassettes (incl. 1-g on centrifuge)
    • Tilting system for cassettes to align the artificial gravity vector with direction of root tips.
    • Injection system of fixative (PFA, RNAlater, etc.) fluids for each cassette.
  • Flight: Parabolic Flights, Sounding Rocket (MASER 13, 2015)

Photobioreactor BIORAT

Breadboard model of the BIORAT experiment

Photobioreactor BIORAT

  • Goal of the Experiment: Demonstration of the life support technology conceived to regenerate the atmosphere of a human habitat in space, namely capture CO2 and release oxygen
  • Partners: Qinetiq Space (BE), UCA (FR)
  • Technical challenges:
    • Oxygen production based on photosynthesis of algae cultivated in a bioreactor
    • CO2 and O2 Gas exchange based on membranes modules
    • Long duration experiment in axenic conditions
    • Behavior of suspend algae and humidity management in microgravity
  • Flight: to be planned

Learn more about Bioreactors here

Contact

Christopher Martin

christopher.martin@ruag.com

Chemin de la Vuarpillière 29, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland