NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Effectiveness of Three Thermal Cooling Solutions (NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation) - 09.27.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Plants need cool, stable temperatures to grow properly. But in previous research on the International Space Station (ISS), plant growth experiments have reached temperatures of 93°F (34°C), which is too hot for many plants and can interfere with analysis of microgravity’s effects on their growth. The NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Instrumentation (NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation) investigation studies three cooling systems that can ensure a stable temperature for future plant experiments in space.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by James Nadir, B.S. EE, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Valley Christian High School , Valley Christian High School, San Jose, CA, United States

James Nadir, B.S. EE, Valley Christian Junior High School, San Jose, CA, United States

Valley Christian High School , San Jose , CA, United States
NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - September 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Instrumentation (NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation) is needed to determine the effectiveness of thermal cooling management solutions for future plant experiments.
  • NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation establishes the effectiveness of different thermal cooling solutions and the appropriateness of one over the other for a given application.
  • NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation provides optimum selection of a thermal solution for a given application.


The NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Instrumentation (NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation) investigation studies three cooling systems. The passive cooler uses conduction to expel heat from the payload chamber. Its effectiveness depends upon the thermal gradient between the external environment and the internal environment of the payload, and the behavior of heat in microgravity. If effective, this is an ideal solution since it has the least volume penalty of the thermal cooling solutions being investigated.
The air pump cooler pulls air in from the external environment to cool a small chamber within the payload enclosure. Its effectiveness depends on the thermal gradient between the external environment and the chamber. This approach is effective for “spot cooling” of seeds/plants and is a reasonable volume cost.
The evaporative cooler depends on a moisture gradient between the payload enclosure and the internal chamber rather than on a thermal gradient as the other solutions. It has the potential to cool the chamber to below the temperature of the external environment. Because it has the highest area penalty of the three thermal cooling solutions it may be housed in a dedicated module which cools three neighbors.

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Space Applications
In space, sunlight and darkness cause extreme fluctuations in temperature. This investigation studies three methods for cooling the plant growth chambers on the ISS. A passive cooler connects experimental payloads to temperatures in the ISS cabin; an active cooler uses evaporated water to cool the air; and an air cooler uses a fan to pull cabin air into the growth chamber. Results from this investigation benefit future plant-based research in microgravity, which is crucial for future efforts to grow food in space.

Earth Applications
This investigation improves methods to grow plants with limited resources and in extreme conditions, which will benefit people on Earth as climate change causes drought and warmer temperatures. In addition, the investigation was designed and built by students in grades 9 through 12, who gain real-world experience in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts. Teachers and mentors helped the students build an experiment to be flown on the ISS, fostering a unique connection to the space program.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks Module-22 is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. During actual operation photographic and text data is sent to the investigators to track the progress of the experiment. Operation of each thermal cooling solution is divided across the flight thusly: passive cooler measurements occur over the first two days of flight, the evaporative cooler measurements occur over the next 10 days, and air cooler measurements occur afterwards for the next 10 days. The evaporative and air cooler measurements repeat on flight durations over 20 days.
Crew interaction with Module-22 is limited to transferring the NanoRacks locker insert from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installation and activation of the NanoRacks Frames into the EXPRESS Rack Locker, cleaning of the air inlet filter (as necessary) and data retrieval (as needed) during the mission.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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Instrumentation Diagram of Thermal Cooling Solutions for the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Instrumentation (NanoRacks-VCHS-Instrumentation) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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