CORDIS - Forschungsergebnisse der EU

Ground Demonstration of Plant Cultivation Technologies and Operation in Space for Safe Food Production on-board ISS and Future Human Space Exploration Vehicles and Planetary Outposts

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - EDEN ISS (Ground Demonstration of Plant Cultivation Technologies and Operation in Space for Safe Food Production on-board ISS and Future Human Space Exploration Vehicles and Planetary Outposts)

Berichtszeitraum: 2017-08-01 bis 2019-04-30

A critical component of future human exploration to other worlds will be the sustainable supply of edible food for crew members without constant resupply from Earth. Developing innovations regarding food cultivation in closed-loop systems is an essential integral part to enabling future space missions.
A mobile container-sized greenhouse test facility was built to demonstrate and validate different key technologies and procedures necessary for safe and nutritious food production within a (semi-) closed system. The plant cultivation technologies were tested in a laboratory setting at the sites of the consortium partners. Subsequently, systems were shipped to DLR in Bremen where they were integrated and the system was tested.
In October 2017, the complete facility was shipped to the German Neumayer III Antarctic station. The station is operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute and has unique capabilities and infrastructure for testing plant cultivation under extreme environmental and logistical conditions. The container-sized greenhouse of the EDEN ISS project provided year-round fresh food supplementation for the Neumayer Station III crew throughout the 2018 operations phase.
The EDEN ISS consortium designed and tested essential controlled environment agriculture technologies. An International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR) cultivation system was built which could additionally be used for potential testing on-board the ISS. A Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG) was developed and used to test technologies and operations associated with future bio-regenerative life support systems (BLSS).

The EDEN ISS consortium was comprised of leading European experts in the domain of human spaceflight and controlled environment agriculture. Due to the necessity of validating key technologies for space greenhouses under mission relevant conditions and with representative mass flows, the EDEN ISS consortium defined six objectives:

1. Manufacturing a space analogue mobile test facility
2. Integration and testing of an International Standard Payload Rack plant cultivation system for future tests on-board ISS and a Future Exploration Greenhouse for planetary habitats
3. Adaptation, integration, fine-tuning and demonstration of key technologies
4. Development and demonstration of operational techniques and processes for higher plant cultivation to achieve safe and high-quality food
5. Study of microbial behaviour and countermeasures within plant cultivation chambers
6. Actively advancing knowledge related to human spaceflight and transformation of research results into terrestrial applications
• Antarctic Deployment
The Mobile Test Facility and all consumables and parts required for the operations phase were delivered to the Neumayer III Station in the Antarctic. Following off-loading of the containers from the Agulhas II on January 3rd 2018, the Mobile Test Facility was installed on an elevated platform 400 m away from the Neumayer III Station. Over a period of 6 weeks, the on-site deployment team installed all subsystems and performed various system checks in preparation of the operations phase.

• Antarctic Operations
From March until end of November 2018, the operations phase of the Mobile Test Facility in the Antarctic was completed. A dedicated overwinterer lived at the Neumayer III Station as part of the crew and carried out nominal and off-nominal operations along with scientific experiments.
While a number of off-nominal events occurred, the greenhouse successfully produced fresh edible biomass for the crew. In total, 268 kg of fresh food was produced, consisting of lettuce cultivars, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and other crops.

• Remote Control and Procedures Testing
To gain insight into the operational aspects of managing a closed-loop greenhouse, in particular with respect to remote operations, the Mission Control Center was used to monitor and control the Mobile Test Facility. Regular tele-con meetings were held with the on-site operator to discuss the planning of activities. The procedures which had been prepared were used by the on-site operator and feedback was provided to improve, add, or remove certain procedural steps.

• Scientific Experiments and Sample Return
Throughout the operations phase, the on-site operator carried out many experiments, such as psychological assessments to determine the impact of the greenhouse and fresh food on the crew, as well as measurements on the energy and crew time demand of the greenhouse.
Furthermore, the operator took samples in the greenhouse to allow for determination of the microbial contamination. Similarly, samples were taken from the harvested biomass, to allow the consortium to assess the food quality and safety.
These samples have been returned to Europe for analysis at the partner laboratories. Initial results of the sample analyses have been obtained and have been reported in the project deliverables.

• Outreach
The Mobile Test Facility has been deployed in the Antarctic and has successfully completed one year of operations. Outreach efforts have been aimed at bringing this information to stakeholders through a website and regular Facebook and Instagram postings. A live monitoring system has been incorporated in the project website to allow the public to follow the plant cultivation in the facility.
Consortium partners gave interviews for television, radio and online and print media, lectured at popular science initiatives and conferences, wrote articles for popular newspapers, journals, and print media, and held a number of press conferences, to mark key highlights of the deployment and operations phase.
The EDEN ISS project aimed to provide benefits over the current state-of-the-art while advancing European competency by:
• advancing the Technology Readiness Level to 6 of key technologies for plant cultivation to be deployed in future BLSS
• developing an ISPR cultivation system in preparation for future deployment on-board the ISS,
• manufacturing an in-situ plant production system to provide year-round fresh food supplementation for Neumayer Station III Antarctic crews
• enhancing yield per production area while minimizing energy and resource requirements
• utilizing the Mobile Test Facility and its integrated subsystems to analyse the biomass production, resource use and crew time in a highly integrated plant production module
• leveraging the idea-to-market capacities by facilitating the interaction between space actors with non-space actors as well as SMEs in order to strengthen European competitiveness
• strengthening European research efforts within the BLSS domain while remaining complementary to present research initiatives

The data from 2018 is being processed, but it is clear that it will contribute significantly to the body of scientific knowledge on controlled environment agriculture. In particular, the sample return mission will yield valuable results for the wider research community.
Initial data has been collected regarding biomass production, resource use and crew time demand of the Mobile Test Facility.
A number of exploitable results have been identified and the consortium partners are investigating the optimal ways to leverage these results. Furthermore, through an extensive outreach programme the project has been widely disseminated and additional projects and collaboration efforts have been initiated, expanding the network of the consortium partners.
Mobile Test Facility (MTF) deployed in the Antarctic
Inside view of the Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG) [photo credit: Hanno Müller, 2018]
First crop harvest ready for processing in the Neumayer III Station kitchen