Share:Out-of-this-world tomatoes

15.11.2018
One of the payloads going up on Spaceflight´s SSO-A Smallsat Express rideshare on a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, is Eu:CROPIS, a small greenhouse satellite with tomato seeds ready to sprout in orbit. KSAT will provide LEOP support from Svalbard Ground Station.
The “Euglena Combined Regenerative Organic food Production In Space”, in short Eu:CROPIS, is a German life science satellite developed by the DLR  to investigate the growing of plants in different levels of gravity on Mars and the Moon. 
 

The satellite consists of two pressurized greenhouses designed to rotate at an altitude of 600 kilometres, initially replicating Lunar gravity for a period of six months before simulating Martian gravity for the next six months. During this period, tomato seeds will germinate and produce small cosmic tomatoes, under careful monitoring by 16 cameras. 

KSAT will provide Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) support to Eu:CROPIS from Svalbard Ground Station as part of a LEOP network, and the KSAT ground station in Spitzbergen can also be used for special operations like software uploads or emergency recoveries for the mission.


Key helpers that will enable growth will also be transported into space: first, an entire colony of microorganisms inhabiting a trickle filter will convert synthetic urine into easily digestible fertilisers for the tomatoes. Second, the single-cell organism “euglena” will also be on board to protect the hermetic system from excessive ammonia and to deliver oxygen. LED light will provide the day/night rhythm that the euglena and tomato seed require. A pressure tank will replicate the Earth's atmosphere.

"Ultimately, we are simulating and testing greenhouses that could be assembled inside a lunar or Martian habitat to provide the crew with a local source of fresh food. The system would do this by managing the controlled conversion of waste into fertiliser," says DLR biologist Jens Hauslage, head of the scientific part of the mission. 

In a lunar habitat, for instance, the greenhouse would be located in the astronauts' 'home' in a simulated Earth atmosphere. Urine would be one of the waste products the astronauts would produce in abundance. Here, the plants would have to adapt to reduced gravity conditions – the gravitational pull on the Moon is approximately one sixth of what it is on Earth, and on Mars it is around one third.

Read full article here

Eu:CROPIS is one of the commercial customers on Spaceflight’s SHERPA free-flying rideshare vehicle on the SSO-A Smallsat Express, going up on a Falcon-9 rocket scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base Monday November 19th at 18:30 UTC. 

The 250 kg satellite is built by the DLR Institute for Space Systems and will be operated by the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) – another DLR institution.

Paper on Eu:CROPIS 

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