Veggie Hardware Validation Test (Veg-01) - 03.04.14
ISS Science for Everyone
Science Objectives for Everyone
VEGGIE provides the necessary lighting and nutrient delivery for efficient plant growth in space. The plants grown in VEGGIE can support a wide spectrum of uses, from research to education outreach to a fresh food source for the astronauts. Additionally, VEGGIE can be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during long-duration space missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Kennedy Space Center, , FL, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014
Previous ISS Missions
- VEGGIE can support a variety of experiments used to determine how plants sense and respond to gravity. The plants will be harvested for further investigation, consumed by the astronauts, or used in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) outreach activities.
- VEGGIE’s growth volume will be the largest volume available for plant growth on ISS. This will enable growth of larger plants that were previously not grown on ISS due to size restrictions. Additionally, the large, adjustable LED light bank makes VEGGIE an ideal facility for other experiments requiring a temporary light source.
- As with all basic research, an improved understanding of plant growth and development has important implications for improving plant production on Earth.
The overall goal of Veg-01 is to demonstrate proof-of concept for the Veggie plant growth chamber and the planting pillows. This research builds upon hardware development via a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant to ORBITEC for the initial prototype Veggie units with subsequent hardware development for next-generation units. Both ORBITEC and KSC have been involved in plant growth optimization of the Veggie hardware and testing and collaboration have resulted in the development of the pillow planting concept to interface with the Veggie hardware. Through numerous tests the VEG-01 science team has refined the pillow concept and selected growth media and fertilizers, plant species, materials, and protocols for using the pillow concept in Veggie to grow healthy plants that can provide crew with food and recreation. The pillow concept is designed to be low mass, modular, require no additional energy and be very low maintenance. Pillows of different sizes have been designed to accommodate a wide variety of plant types and different types of growing media.
The primary goal of the Veg-01 testing will be to demonstrate plant growth in the Veggie hardware using lettuce as a test species. Plants will be grown in two different sizes of arcillite, a calcined clay media. This test will help us compare root zones of the two media sizes to determine water and root distribution in the different sized-particles to provide recommendations for future Veggie investigations. Shoot tissue samples will also provide information on any growth anomalies when compared with ground controls. Photographs will be used to assess plant growth rates and plant health. A data logger will record the environment within the Veggie hardware. Crew questionnaires will provide insight into the appropriateness and thoroughness of the crew procedures for Veggie hardware and plant growth operations.
Pillows are single use and thus reduce the chances of microbial contamination of the Veggie hardware and produce. A major aspect of the proof of concept flight, Veg-01, is to collect baseline microbial data from plants and pillows grown on ISS. Ground testing has demonstrated very low microbial levels on lettuce plants grown in Veggie-relevant conditions. Discussions with space microbiologists, flight surgeons, and space food technologists at JSC indicate that if microbial levels are sufficiently low the crew could consume the fresh produce without sanitizing. For crops that naturally have higher levels of microorganisms (e.g. radishes, which grow in contact with water and nutrients) a space-rated produce sanitation method must be developed and tested.
The baseline data collected from the Veg-01 flight will be a resource for future Veggie investigations. This information will provide data on necessary procedural changes, hardware upgrades or horticultural options as Veggie becomes an integral part of ISS expeditions in the future.
Crop testing has been an important part of NASA’s Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) Programs for over 30 years (Wheeler et al., 2001). These studies historically focused on optimizing productivity of crops in controlled environments, with an ultimate objective of implementing a bioregenerative life support system. The best initial opportunity for testing crop production in space is on the International Space Station. Although volume and power constraints limit the size of plant systems, the ISS can still provide a valuable flight setting to test many issues related to crop production. Key among these is (1) the value of adding fresh (perishable) foods on a regular basis to the crew’s diet, and (2) the potential for providing a positive effect on the crew’s well-being by having plants in their environment. To date, no large scale crop production tests have been conducted in space, hence the need for a functioning flight system with more growing volume than previous experimental systems.
As with all basic research, an improved understanding of the basic growth and environmental response phenomena of living organisms has important implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth, thus benefitting the average citizen. Veggie technology might also be readily adaptable to horticultural therapy and recreational activities for elderly or disabled individuals.
Set up and activation of Veggie facility
Priming of plant pillows and insertion into Veggie
Initial filling of the Veggie reservoir
Wick opening after three days
Regular plant checks and water refilling.
Plant thinning after 7 days
Experiment run duration: 28 days
Time between harvest and MELFI insertion: < 8 hours
Weekly photos of plant growth requested
Harvest photos required; request live video of harvest operations when possible
Only the Science Kit return
Swabs , plants and pillows return at -95°C in General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER)
Data logger returned
Photos and crew questionnaire responses returned via downlink.
Sanitation of Veggie hardware following harvest.
Veggie will be activated and the desired photoperiod, light levels, and fan speed programmed in via the control panel. The root mat will then be placed in the Veggie bellows assembly. Six plant pillows will then be unstowed and placed on the root mat under elastic bands in designated positions. A sample bag will be filled from stowed water. The watering syringe assembly will be used to pull water from the sample bag and inject it into the plant pillow priming fitting to initially wet each pillow. After priming all the plant pillows, the bellows assembly will be attached to the light cap, and water from the sample bag will be used for the initial filling of the root mat reservoir. A 10 mL initial water sample will also be taken and stored in the MELFI at -80°C. Initial photos of the setup will be taken. The plants will be checked daily and additional water from stowed water added as scheduled using the watering syringe assembly. Three days following initiation wicks will be separated to allow plants to emerge. Plants will be thinned to one plant per pillow after 7 days. Weekly photos of plant growth will be taken and downloaded to the ground. After 28 days, final photographs and microbial samples will be collected from the plants and the Veggie hardware (live video of harvest operations would be desirable). The lettuce plants will be harvested by cutting the stem at the interface of the plant pillow and wrapped in foil sheets, placed in resealable bags and stored for sample return in MELFI at -80°C. A 10 mL final water sample will be taken from the root mat using the syringe assembly and stored in the MELFI at -80°C. The data logger will be removed from Veggie and stowed for return. Plant pillows E and F will be sealed in resealable bags for sample return. Pillow and plant samples and microbial swab samples (-80°C) should be placed in MELFI less than 8 hours after collection. Remaining pillows should be disposed of by placing in plastic trash bags. Excess water will be removed from the root mat using the syringe assembly and placed in the sample bag for recycling. The root mat will be allowed to dry out in place or reused for another growing cycle. Disinfectant wipes will be used to clean and sanitize the interior of the Veggie unit and then discarded. The crew will respond to a questionnaire on operations and suggest improvements. Questionnaire responses and photographs will be sent to the PIs via downlink. Science samples including the data logger will be returned on the first available flight after harvest, microbial samples and plant samples and pillows return at -95°C in GLACIER.
Ground Based Results Publications