NanoRacks-Edith Stein School-Vegetative Propagation of Plants in Orbit (NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO) - 03.08.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Plants normally grow from seeds, but they can also be cultivated using cuttings taken from branches or stems. The NanoRacks-Edith Stein School-Vegetative Propagation of Plants in Orbit (NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO) investigation studies how well plant cuttings can be grown into new plants while in the microgravity environment of space. Plants grow differently in space, and this investigation offers a method to grow plants in a more uniform fashion than those grown from seeds.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Edith Stein School, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Edith Stein School , Edith Stein School, Ravensburg, Germany

Brigitte Schürmann, Edith Stein Schule, Ravensburg, Germany
Christian Bruderrek, Airbus DS GmbH, Weingarten, Germany
Maria Birlem, Meckenbeuren, Germany

NanoRacks LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2016 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Vegetative plant propagation ensures and achieves uniform crop
  • NanoRacks-Edith Stein School-Vegetative Propagation of Plants in Orbit (NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO) investigates the possibility of producing large quantities of high-quality vegetables on a space station, ensuring astronauts on long missions a continuous supply of fresh vegetables.
  • The exact behavior of plant cuttings under microgravity is still unknown.
  • Cuttings do not have a root system; NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO experiment shall show if the cuttings can grow their own root system without gravity to guide them.
  • NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO seeks to answer, do sprout cells differentiate to root cells?
  • NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO seeks to answer, how do the roots, sprouts and leaves develop in microgravity?
  • This experiment is a major step forward in the effort to supply long-term spaceflights with food from space farming.


The principle aim of NanoRacks-Edith Stein School-Vegetative Propagation of Plants in Orbit (NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO) on the International Space Station (ISS) is to investigate the possibility to produce large quantities of high-quality vegetables on a space station, thereby ensuring astronauts on long missions a continuous supply of fresh vegetables. Many types of plants reproduce by sowing their seeds (generative propagation). However, with seed-reproduction, the desired characteristics are not always consistently and uniformly preserved in the successive generations. In contrast, a uniform crop can be achieved through the use of plant cuttings (vegetative propagation). In addition, vegetative propagation ensures a crop even when the plants only produce a few viable seeds.
Under normal gravitational conditions on Earth, roots and leaves form on cuttings. The plant roots grow towards the Earth’s center, in the direction of gravity, and the sprouts in contrast, grow towards the light source (sunlight). Until now, experiments conducted in microgravity have focused on studying the growth of the seedlings’ roots. However, in contrast to a seedling, cuttings do not have a root system. NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO investigates if cuttings are also capable of forming roots in microgravity. Specifically, 1) Do sprout cells differentiate to root cells, and 2) How do the roots, sprouts and leaves develop in microgravity.
The conduction of a vegetative propagation experiments on the ISS is compared with the results of a reference experiment running on Earth. For the experiment leafed, herbaceous shoot cuttings are used, that have been put in a test medium. To ensure the success of the experiment, an appropriate experimental design is currently developed for the ISS. That is a method to achieve a consistent root system in the shoots and a consistent shooting of the reserve buds – without fungal infestation – during the 25-30 day mission using specific experiment hardware in the ISS environment.
One week before launch, the plants are procured locally in Florida. The other necessary materials are delivered by BASF, are shipped or hand carried by the Principal Investigators all within a reasonable timeframe before launch date and then to be stored inside the laboratory. The preparation of the medium and the plant cuttings are started according to the experiment schedule. Finally, the prepared cuttings are put into the hardware and a final functional test is performed before the handover of the completed experiment set-up to the loading crew.
During the mission no video or specific data link is required. The predefined experiment timeline (illumination cycles and picture capture intervals) is programmed in advanced and runs autonomously after the experiment hardware is powered and activated. All necessary data is saved on the experiment hardware level.
After the return of the experiment hardware, the hardware and all the collected data (e.g. pictures, environment parameter data etc.) have to be transported and delivered to the school labs in Ravensburg, Germany. Here, all further investigations and analyzes take place and the reference run is performed according the provided mission data.
NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO and NanoRacks-VCHS-BAM-FX share the two habitats inside a 1.5U NanoRacks Module. The hardware was already flown on SpX-3 named NanoRacks-AFEX but slightly modified (introduction of second habitat) for the NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO and NanoRacks-VCHS-BAM-FX joint education experiment.

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Space Applications
Future space travelers to distant colonies on the moon, Mars, asteroids or other destinations will have to grow their own food, but plants can grow differently and unpredictably in space. Without the influence of Earth’s gravity, plant roots grow in unpredictable directions. NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO studies plant reproduction and growth using cuttings rather than growing them from seeds. The investigation aims to produce large quantities of high-quality vegetables, ensuring crew members on future missions will have access to fresh food.

Earth Applications
Agricultural students from the Edith Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany, designed the investigation to study how crops can be cultivated in microgravity. Their work is the first German school experiment flown on the International Space Station, providing students with a unique opportunity for real-world experience in the space program.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
NanoRacks Module-71 is autonomous once it is installed in the NanoRacks Platform and activated. The Module is stored at 4°C and darkness for ascent. The duration of the experiment is up to 40 days, with return on the same vehicle as ascent. The Module is returned at 4°C and darkness.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Edith Stein School

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The V3PO-Team at Alexander Gerst’s welcome back party, from left: Maria, David, (Alexander Gerst), and Raphael. Image courtesy of Edith Stein Schule.

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The NanoRacks Module-71 flight hardware for the NanoRacks-ESS-V3PO and NanoRacks-VCHS-BAM-FX investigations. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.

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