E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) - 01.10.18

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) investigation determines the lowest dose of antibiotic needed to inhibit growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterial pathogen that causes infections in humans and animals. The experiment exposes wild type (naturally occurring in nature) and mutant strains of E. coli to three different antibiotic concentrations, then examines viability of each group using a dye that reveals metabolic activity. The first mission in the 6U satellite platform configuration, EcAMSat also serves to demonstrate the capabilities of this technology.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by A.C. Matin, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
A.C. Matin, Ph.D., Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States

Information Pending

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA Research Office - Space Life and Physical Sciences (NASA Research-SLPS)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Bacterial antibiotic resistance may pose a danger to astronauts in microgravity.
  • E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) investigates spaceflight effects on bacterial antibiotic resistance.
  • EcAMSat determines if microgravity stresses the bacteria in such a manner that their genetically programmed response to stress makes them more antibiotic resistant.
  • The experiment determines the concentration of antibiotic that inhibits bacterial growth.
  • The knowledge gained in this experiment may be useful for prescribing the correct dose of antibiotics for future space travelers.


The fundamental scenario of the experiment protocol starts four days after launch of the EcAMSat satellite by allowing an initial growth and then starvation period for E. coli bacteria contained in 48 microfluidic wells. Both wild type (occurring in nature) and mutant strains of E. coli are used. This cycle lasts 48 hours and serves to prepare the bacteria for introduction of the antibiotic agent at a time most suitable for meaningful comparisons of antibiotic dose dependence with laboratory data. After this 48-hour growth period, a buffer solutionplus-antibiotic mixture is dispensed into 3 sets of 12-well banks at three different antibiotic concentrations and is left to incubate for 48 hours. A fourth 12-well set is a control and receives no antibiotic agent, only buffer solution. After 48 hours a fluid exchange occurs and alamarBlue®, a dye used to determine viability of the bacteria by measuring its metabolism, is then introduced to all wells and viability is tracked for at least 48 hours. An optical system tracks viability by color change of the ‘viability dye’, which changes from blue to pink when enzymes generated by cellular metabolic processes act upon it. EcAMSat acquires data from optical measurements in realtime. It is capable of autonomous operation and stores 152 hours of data. Overall, the experiment will determine the lowest concentration of antibiotic that inhibits bacterial growth. The knowledge gained in this experiment may be useful for prescribing the correct dose of antibiotics for future space travelers.

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Space Applications
Antibiotic resistance poses a potential danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity weakens the human immune response. This experiment contributes to determining correct antibiotic doses to protect astronaut health during long-duration human space missions.

Earth Applications
The knowledge gained in this experiment contributes to a better understanding of the response of bacteria to stress and how that impacts their antibiotic resistance which helps with the selection or design of new, more effective antibiotics.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

EcAMSat utilizes flight-proven spacecraft technologies demonstrated on prior Ames nanosatellite missions such as PharmaSat and Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses (O/OREOS) Nanosatellite. EcAMSat is the first NASA biology mission in the 6U configuration, with six times the volume of a single CubeSat unit (1U). The cube-shaped 1U satellites measure about 4 inches on each side, have an approximate volume of one quart, and weigh less than three pounds. The 6U format enhances nanosatellite applicability for space missions by providing more power and volume for instruments, avionics, actuators and propulsion. The larger format improves payload accommodation and extends mission duration capabilities, while still retaining the ability to be launched as a secondary payload. EcAMSat weighs about 23 pounds and measures approximately 14.4 inches long, 8.9 inches wide and 3.9 inches tall. In addition, EcAMSat serves to demonstrate the 6U satellite platform with two separate payload volumes.
NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the ISS already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) or NanoRacks DoubleWide Deployer (NRDD). A crew member transfers each NRCSD/NRDD from the launch vehicle to the JEM. Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSD/NRDDs are unpacked, mounted on the JAXA Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) and placed on the JEM airlock slide table for transfer outside the ISS. A crew member operates the JEM Remote Manipulating System (JRMS) – to grapple and position for deployment. CubeSats are deployed when JAXA ground controllers command a specific NRCSD.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat)

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