OHB awarded contract for biological experiment on board the International Space Station
Bremen-based space technology company OHB-System AG is building the first experiment for the BIOLAB biological research laboratory on board the COLUMBUS, the European section of the ISS International Space Station. To be known as WAICO, the research system will be examining root growth in arabidopsis, also known as thale or mouse-ear cress, in varying degrees of gravity as well as in completely weightless conditions. Worth EUR 1.7 million, the contract has been awarded by Astrium GmbH, Friedrichshafen.
OHB-System is responsible for developing, constructing, testing and starting up the entire experiment hardware plus the related ground equipment for parallel reference experiments. The OHB model provides for fully automatic execution of the experiment, with the astronaut’s task largely confined to sowing the arabidopsis seed in the 16 experiment containers. The BIOLAB is fitted with centrifuges simu-lating different levels of gravity up to 2g and providing atmospheric living conditions for organisms. OHB has also supplied the necessary life support systems. “It is very exciting to be able to accompany this development right up to the scientific task,” says Dr. Klaus Slenzka, head of the WAICO pro-ject. The plant growth will be artificially halted after two weeks and conserved for evaluation on the ground. The research task has been designed by Prof. Dr. Günther Scherer, a molecular and plant physiologist at the University of Hannover.
To be commenced in autumn 2007, the experiment is to be the first and, for the time being, the only experiment to be conducted in the BIOLAB on board the COLUMBUS.
The US module of the ISS deploys a similar biological research laboratory, for which OHB has also built the life support system. Thomas Reiter, the first long-term astronaut for the European Space Agency ESA, is managing this laboratory, which aims to examine the behavior of plants and insects in various gravitational conditions.