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A person uses small tubes to fill a manifold with blue dye.
Three people wearing lab coats are working with hardware in a lab.
Illustration of the BioSentinel spacecraft, flying past the Moon with the CubeSat's solar arrays fully deployed, facing the Sun.

Bioengineering Branch

Future human missions beyond low Earth orbit will require the development of technologies that minimize launch mass and resupply costs, while providing a high degree of reliability and self-sufficiency. Currently, the Closed-Loop Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) on the International Space Station (ISS) consists of subsystems that enable humans to live and work in the space environment.

The Bioengineering Branch (SCB) works collaboratively with other NASA centers to maintain the current ECLSS on the ISS. It is also developing the next generation of regenerative technologies to enable humans to live beyond low Earth orbit for extended periods.  Research expertise and technology development areas include atmosphere revitalization and trace contaminant control, water recovery, and logistics reduction including solid waste management, in situ resource utilization, and synthetic biology.

The ongoing research and development efforts are integral to achieving the ambitious goals of space exploration. By pioneering advanced life support systems and biotechnologies, we are paving the way for sustainable human presence beyond low Earth orbit. In addition, these technologies can be transferred to terrestrial applications to enhance life here on Earth.

Meet the Team about Bioengineering Branch

Branch Chief

Yasaman Shirazi

Deputy Branch Chief

Vacant

Research and Technology Development Capabilities Areas

Analytical Chemistry Lab

The Analytical Chemistry Lab is a full-service analytical chemistry lab supporting a wide variety of gas and liquid sample analysis needs for the branch, as well as other researchers, on an as-needed basis. The lab manager/chemist also acts as a consultant on different projects regarding analytical methods.

a rack with equipment on it

Atmosphere Revitalization

The Air Revitalization group develops advanced technologies to remove carbon dioxide and other contaminants from cabin atmospheres and to facilitate their transformation into safe and useful products. The air revitalization staff are subject matter experts in several physio-chemical methods applicable to this field, including the development and application of solid and liquid sorbent materials as well as cold surface deposition. 

Aditya Hindupur, lead scientist for the BioNutrients experiment, inspects a production pack after removing it from an incubator in a lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

BioNutrients

BioNutrients is a bioengineered on-demand nutrient production system for long-duration missions.

a block of compacted trash held by gloved hands

Logistic Reduction

The Logistic Reduction group is comprised of subject matter experts dedicated to developing technologies for volume reduction, water and other resource recovery, and the microbial and chemical safening and repurposing of waste materials. Recently, the group has begun examining technologies to optimize solid waste processing systems and their conversion for use in various NASA missions, including the Artemis and Mars missions. 

Synthetic Biology

The Synthetic Biology Group engineers biological systems to provide critical resources for space exploration, including food, life support, and materials. Current efforts include BioNutrients,  CO2-based Manufacturing, Lunar Explorer Instrument for space biology Applications (LEIA), and Space Algae.

Experimental water recovery system - SCWO.

Water Processing and Management

The Water Processing and Management group are subject matter experts in all aspects of water recovery in Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) for short and long-duration missions. Expertise ranges from chemical to mechanical engineering in the development of technologies to significantly improve water recovery rates, increase reliability, and reduce consumables.