A plant growth chamber bound for the International Space Station inside the Dragon capsule on the SpaceX-3 resupply mission may help expand in-orbit food production capabilities in more ways than one, and offer astronauts something they don't take for granted, fresh food.
NASA's Veg-01 experiment will be used to study the in-orbit function and performance of a new expandable plant growth facility called Veggie and its plant "pillows." The investigation will focus on the growth and development of "Outredgeous" lettuce seedlings in the spaceflight environment.
"Veggie will provide a new resource for U.S. astronauts and researchers as we begin to develop the capabilities of growing fresh produce and other large plants on the space station," said Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie. "Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test."
Veggie is a low-cost plant growth chamber that uses a flat-panel light bank that includes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation. Veggie's unique design is collapsible for transport and storage and expandable up to a foot and a half as plants grow inside it.
"The internal growing area is 11.5 inches wide by 14.5 inches deep, making it the largest plant growth chamber for space to date," Massa said.
Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wis., developed Veggie through a Small Business Innovative Research Program. NASA and ORBITEC engineers and collaborators at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida worked to get the unit's hardware flight-certified for use on the space station.
Because real estate on the station is limited, some adjustments to the growth chamber were made to accommodate space requirements. At Kennedy's Space Life Sciences Laboratory, a crop of lettuce and radishes was grown in the prototype test unit. Seedlings were placed in the Veggie root-mat pillows, and their growth was monitored for
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center