A modular suite of hardware enabling spaceflight cell culture research.
BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA Research Partnership Center (RPC), has developed and operated various middeck payloads launched on 23 shuttle missions since 1991 in support of commercial space biotechnology projects. Modular cell culture systems are contained within the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA) suite of flight-qualified hardware, compatible with Space Shuttle, SPACEHAB, Spacelab and International Space Station (ISS) EXPRESS Rack interfaces. As part of the CGBA family, the Isothermal Containment Module (ICM) incubator provides thermal control, data acquisition and experiment manipulation capabilities, including accelerometer launch detection for automated activation and thermal profiling for culture incubation and sample preservation. The ICM can accommodate up to 8 individually controlled temperature zones. Command and telemetry capabilities allow real-time downlink of data and video permitting remote payload operation and ground control synchronization. Individual cell culture experiments can be accommodated in a variety of devices ranging from 'microgravity test tubes' or standard 100 mm Petri dishes, to complex, fed-batch bioreactors with automated culture feeding, waste removal and multiple sample draws. Up to 3 levels of containment can be achieved for chemical fixative addition, and passive gas exchange can be provided through hydrophobic membranes. Many additional options exist for designing customized hardware depending on specific science requirements.