Today, astronaut Peggy Whitson will pull out her gardening tools once again to initiate the next crop of Chinese cabbage to be grown aboard the International Space Station. This crop will be the second Chinese cabbage and the sixth crop grown in the Veggie system. The leafy greens will be allowed to grow for two months while Whitson periodically harvests leaves for crew enjoyment as well as for science. This will be the second time a space station crew has used the cut-and-come-again harvest technique intended to increase crop yield; the technique was previously used with ’Outredgeous’ lettuce.
This time around, the gardening guidance given to Whitson was revised to reflect the need for more water that was discovered during the first growth of Chinese cabbage earlier this year. According to Veggie Project Scientist Dr. Gioia Massa, every experiment provides new information as the Veggie team continues to lay the groundwork for future long-duration plant growth systems.
“Our main goal for this VEG-03C crop is to grow the Chinese cabbage for a longer duration and to see how plants respond to the cut-and-come-again repetitive harvest technique we used last fall with the ‘Outredgeous’ lettuce,” Massa said. “We hope that, similar to the lettuce, astronauts will get to eat more Chinese cabbage over a longer duration as we test more sustainable growth practices for this crop.”
Although these Chinese cabbage seeds are the last ones currently aboard the orbiting laboratory, the Veggie team does plan to send up more seed pillows in the near future. What seeds will those pillows contain? The team isn’t certain just yet, but the scientists have been studying peppers, tomatoes and other leafy greens.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson will initiate the next round of crops to be grown aboard the International Space Station today. For the first time, a Chinese cabbage variety named Tokyo Bekana will be grown in space. The cabbage was chosen as a good candidate because it is a quick growing leafy green that is rated highly from a nutritional and taste perspective. Whitson will act as the on-orbit gardener, tending to the cabbage for about a month.
How do astronauts aboard the International Space Station get fresh oxygen for spacewalks and everyday use in the orbiting laboratory? After the space shuttle retired, NASA designed the Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System, or NORS. Once onboard, the tanks are used to fill the oxygen and nitrogen tanks that supply the needed gases to the station’s airlock for spacewalks. They are also used as a secondary method to replenish the atmosphere inside of the space station.
The tanks are fully reusable once they have been inspected after returning from space. Earlier this week, the first flight-returned NORS Recharge Tank Assembly was depressurized at Kennedy. This particular NORS tank was returned on the SpaceX CRS-9 flight after spending almost a year on station. There are currently four more tanks aboard the station that are scheduled to come down soon so they may be reused in the future.
On Monday, Dec. 5, the first of four lettuce leaf harvests from the Veg-03 ground control took place at Kennedy Space Center as researchers implemented a technique called “cut-and-come-again.” The idea is to cut a few leaves from the ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce plants about every 10 days as the remaining leaves continue to grow. Unlike the harvest conducted aboard the station last Friday where the astronauts ate the fruits of their labor, the leaves cut at Kennedy were bagged, weighed and placed in a freezer for future use.
The purpose of the ground Veggie system is to provide a control group to compare against the lettuce grown in orbit. Some of the future harvests on the station will be saved for scientific comparison once the leaves are returned to the space center. Not only will they compare the yield grown in space versus that on Earth, but researchers also will conduct food safety analysis for the “cut-and-come-again” technique to monitor the microbial load on the plant leaves to see how it changes over time.
A high fidelity test version of NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), the largest plant chamber built for the agency, arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. The engineering development unit arrived by truck, was offloaded and transported to a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility.
Inside the lab, NASA engineers, and scientists and technicians on the Engineering Services Contract will train with the test unit to learn how to handle and assemble it before the actual APH unit arrives early next year. They also will test how the science integrates with the various systems of the plant habitat.
NASA Kennedy engineers designed parts of the APH, but also fabricated the flight growth chamber, with the remaining subsystems designed and built by ORBITEC in Madison, Wisconsin. The unit is a closed-loop system with a controlled environment than can house large plants. The system will use red, green and blue LED lights, similar to the Veggie growth system that currently is on the International Space Station. The APH also has the capability of using white LEDs and infrared light. The APH will have about 180 sensors and four times the light output of Veggie.
Kennedy scientists developed the science carrier that will be inserted in the APH for plant growth experiments on the space station and the control experiments on the ground. Payload integration engineers with Jacobs, on the Test and Operations Support Contract, will help integrate the science, or seeds, into the APH. Jacobs research scientists also are providing lab space and support for the APH.
The small-scale experiment, called Plant Habitat 1 or PH01, will contain Arabidopsis seeds, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard. PH01 and the APH unit will be delivered to the space station in 2017.
Students from Utah State University presented Eden, a plant chamber that could be operated autonomously during long-term spaceflight missions, while visiting Kennedy Space Center Nov. 7. This project is part of NASA’s eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge series, and also serves as a pathfinder for the type of technology needed for future long duration missions beyond low-Earth orbit.
“The Utah State University X-HAB team did a fantastic job developing an innovative project,” commented Dr. Gioia Massa, a scientist who works on food production in space. “Their Eden X-HAB project demonstrated a very novel approach to sustaining plant growth in microgravity, with a 3-D printed substrate that could be a revolutionary way to provide water and nutrients to plants.”
Eden would make use of the 3-D printed substrate to deliver water, oxygen, and nutrients to plant roots in microgravity conditions. Students built an Eden prototype and grew plants in a 30-day test. This type of plant growth system would improve the autonomy of current plant growth systems in use aboard the International Space Station to make them more practical for limited crew time missions.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts work side-by-side with Boeing and SpaceX engineers to evaluate their systems and trainers as they each prepare to return launches to the International Space Station from American soil. They have performed fit checks in mockup spacecraft, assessed the spacecraft’s display panel and controls among numerous other systems. http://go.nasa.gov/1tuHinI
More than five years of careful thought, in-depth planning and detailed refurbishments have set up Kennedy Space Center for diverse exploration missions that will push astronauts and robotic spacecraft into new areas of accomplishment, said, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center director, Bob Cabana at the National Space Club Florida Committee meeting today in Cape Canaveral.
“We’re not just making a difference for Kennedy or even the nation, we’ve got a meaningful mission and we are making a difference for all of humankind,” Cabana, a former astronaut, told the group of about 375 in attendance.
By focusing on piloted missions to the International Space Station using Commercial Crew Program spacecraft, followed by Space Launch System and Orion flight tests, Kennedy has established a ground support network of launch pads and associated infrastructure needed to support missions to Mars by astronauts in the future. All of this while maintaining the center’s unique ability to launch historic robotic exploration missions such as Osiris-Rex that will bring back a sample from an asteroid. Other flights in the future will continue to decipher the mysteries of Mars as well as taking close looks at other planetary networks in the solar system.
The center has seen complete upgrades in many areas including the Launch Control Center, Launch Complex 39B and modifications to the Mobile Launcher tailored to the needs of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. Other facilities have been upgraded for commercial partners. The center’s new headquarters campus is under construction to deliver an environmentally friendly, energy efficient structure.
“Our future is absolutely outstanding,” Cabana said. “I believe the years we have ahead of us will be our best ever.”
A transporter carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized cargo module, sealed inside a shipping container, approaches the open door to the high bay of the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The module will soon begin preflight preparations for its upcoming mission to carry hardware and supplies on the company’s Commercial Resupply Services flight to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir
Today, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden blogged about the agency’s plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. By building a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit, the agency is able to focus on simultaneously getting our astronauts to deep space. Kennedy, the agency’s premier multi-user spaceport, is home to two programs that are vital to this plan. The Commercial Crew Program will return our astronauts to the International Space Station on American systems launching from the United States. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is upgrading our facilities to support the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for our Journey to Mars.
Competition, innovation and technology – it’s the American way,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s helping us to Launch America.”