WAICO project

WAICO is an experiment system to examine root growth and the incidence of waving and coiling in Arabidopsis thaliana in different phases of weightlessness as well as in fully gravity-free conditions. It is housed in the BIOLAB facility in the COLUMBUS module on the International Space Station.

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 eight experiment containers and placing them on centrifuges in the BIOLAB incubator. This incubator is fitted with a life support system to create the atmospheric conditions necessary for the plants to grow, while the centrifuges simulate various degrees of gravity right up to twice the earth's gravity. Both the centrifuges and the life support system of BIOLAB have been sourced from OHB.

The WAICO system consists of a ”Cultivation Bowl“, in which the seeds are mounted at experiment start by the astronaut via a new developed “Seed Strip Mounting Tool“.  The new “Fluid Handling System“, located under the “Cultivation Bowl“, enables at experiment end the automatic chemical fixation of plant samples including washing steps.

The WAICO-system demonstrated its potential during two experiment series (each 14 days):

  • WAICO I – February 2008
  • WAICO II – April/ May 2010

Mission preparation activities such as hardware sterilization and the preparation of the seed strip were performed in the OHB laboratory together with teams from the prime contractor as well as from the scientist.