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QinetiQ North America Gains New Insights into Plant Growth and Sustainable Life Support on Final Shuttle Flight

MCLEAN, Va., Aug. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- QinetiQ North America today announced the results of its first Symbiotic Nodulation in a Reduced Gravity Environment (SyNRGE) experiment, which studied the effects of microgravity on host plant and bacteria cells. After a one-week analysis, the results of this experiment showed both the plants and their beneficial bacteria thrived in microgravity in their BRIC (Biological Research In a Canister) homes on the shuttle.  

The SyNRGE experiment, which took place on the final mission of the space shuttle program, is part of a NASA grant to investigate the role of microgravity on biological nitrogen fixation. This study of plants and bacteria, and how they grow and interact in a microgravity environment, helps to shed light on the creation of a sustainable living environment for humans in space. Plants are critical not only as a sustainable food source, but they can also be used for atmospheric regeneration and water purification. Like humans, plants are intimately associated with bacteria in their environment. SyNRGE's findings could dramatically reduce re-supply costs for astronaut provisions, make longer space missions possible, and free up valuable payload capacity on future missions.

According to QinetiQ North America officials, the results could help scientists find new ways to successfully grow food, such as beans, peas and alfalfa, in areas of our planet that are currently unable to support plant life.

"When Atlantis landed and we first opened up the SyNRGE experiments, we could immediately see excellent growth in all of the test plants. Our preliminary analysis confirms that the plants and bacteria cultivated in space can take the first steps in forming the symbiotic interaction that leads to nitrogen fixation," said Dr. Michael Roberts, QinetiQ North America. "These results will provide scientists and future generations with the information we need to support and sustain life on long-term space missions and in agriculturally challenged areas of our own planet Earth."

QinetiQ North America's team of scientists developed the SyNRGE experiment as part of the company's work on its Engineering Services Contract (ESC) with NASA. In addition to the SyNRGE experiments, ESC includes numerous space launch functions in support of manned and unmanned missions at Kennedy Space Center.

"The development of a biological regenerative system for sustainable life support opens up the universe to us," said Dr. Gary Stutte, QinetiQ North America. "With the ability to create a biological regenerative system for sustainable life support for long duration space missions, a manned mission to Mars is just the beginning."

About QinetiQ North America

QinetiQ North America (QNA) is a subsidiary of QinetiQ Group plc, the FTSE250 company listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: QQ.L).  Operating in North America, QNA delivers world-class technology, responsive services, and innovative solutions for global markets, focusing on US government and commercial customers.  Its engineers, scientists and other professionals deliver high quality products and services that leverage detailed mission knowledge and proven, reliable tools and methodologies to meet the rapidly changing demands of national defense, homeland security and information assurance customers. QNA is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. For more information visit

Michael Rudd, Boscobel (for QinetiQ North America, Inc.)

SOURCE QinetiQ North America
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