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Nov. 26, 2001

Ann Hutchison

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

(Phone: 650/604-3039 or 650/604-9000)


Release: 01-91AR


Hardware that will help scientists better understand the effects of microgravity on avian development is set to fly into space later this week. Launch of the STS-108 mission on space shuttle Endeavour is set for Nov. 29 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Avian Development Facility (ADF) is designed to support space experiments that use Japanese quail eggs. The primary objective of flying the ADF on the upcoming mission is to validate its subsystems and reduce the risk in developing a possible next generation of avian development hardware.

"The Avian Development Facility provides optimal incubation conditions for embryo development during flight," said Randy Berthold, Ph.D., payload manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. "It also minimizes crew time and improves the science return through automation of its intricate processes."

Secondary objectives of this flight will be support of two peer-reviewed experiments that will study how the lack of gravity affects the development of avian embryos. Stephen Doty, Ph.D., of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, will study the effects of space flight on embryonic skeletal development. The development and function of the avian vestibular system will be the focus of a study by David Dickman, Ph.D., of the Central Institute of the Deaf, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

The ADF is a fully automated avian egg incubator that requires no crew interaction with the eggs. Avian eggs are ideally suited for microgravity research because they are self-contained and self-sustaining. "The ADF provides a snapshot of embryogenesis in space using the avian embryos as a biological model," Berthold added.

The ADF will house 36 Japanese quail eggs in egg holders, which are designed to isolate the eggs from vibration, to minimize any effects of launch and re-entry on the developing embryos. The egg holders are mounted on two rotating centrifuges that will provide either exposure to microgravity or to a gravity force equivalent to that found on Earth.

Interior environmental temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and oxygen concentration can be pre-programmed to provide optimal incubation conditions for embryo development. The ADF also has an automated fixative-injection system that can be programmed to fix, or preserve, the embryos at specific times during incubation. The egg holder is designed with a secondary containment system to prevent leaking of injected fixative into the incubator. The ADF rotates the eggs 180 degrees every hour, similar to turning in a natural environment. The facility fits into a space shuttle middeck locker location.

The ADF is one of several research habitats being developed by the Space Station Biological Research Project (SSBRP) at NASA Ames. SSBRP is responsible for managing the development of several habitats that provide life support, environmental control, and monitoring systems for various research subjects and specimens. The habitats are being developed to operate with three major host systems: the variable-gravity, 2.5-meter centrifuge; the microgravity holding racks; and the Life Sciences Glovebox. In addition, SSBRP will manage the development of various laboratory equipment items needed for science operations. More information about the Space Station Biological Research Project is available at: details aboutAmes’ life sciences research can be found at:

Space Hardware Optimization Technology, Inc. (SHOT), of Greenville, Ind., developed the ADF for NASA Ames. SHOT’s previous avian development hardware flew on the space shuttle in 1986 and 1989. Informationabout SHOT is available at:

The two ADF experiments are supported by NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research, which promotes basic and applied research to support human exploration of space and to take advantage of the space environment as a laboratory. More information is available at:

"The ADF provides a unique opportunity to study fundamental biological processes in ways that cannot be done here on Earth." said SHOT project engineer Rachel Ormsby.





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