NanoRacks Microscopes (NanoRacks Microscopes) - 11.08.18

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The NanoRacks Microscopes facility includes commercial off-the-shelf optical and reflective microscopes. NanoRacks Microscopes utilize plug-and-play USB technology and allow crew members to analyze and digitally transfer images of International Space Station (ISS) on-orbit samples.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Carl W. Carruthers, Jr., Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Microscope-1,-2,-3

Facility Manager(s)
Information Pending

Facility Representative(s)
Carl W. Carruthers, Jr., Ph.D., NanoRacks LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Lowell Center for Space Science and Technology, Lowell, MA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2010 - September 2015; March 2016 - September 2016; September 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending


  • Onboard
  • ^ back to top

    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    The NanoRacks Microscopes Facility includes three Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) microscopes. The microscopes are used on the International Space Station (ISS) to study in-situ samples and downlink images to ground via the EXPRESS Rack Laptop computer or the NanoRacks Platform. All of the NanoRacks Microscopes are Universal Serial Bus (USB), plug into any laptop and use resident Microsoft Windows software for image capture. NanoRacks Microscopes are designed to view specimens or objects on a computer screen and allow for snapshot images or short videos to be taken. The microscopes operate on battery power so they can be taken anywhere. The NanoRacks Microscopes are ideally suited for examining specimen slides of yeasts and molds, cultures, plant and animal parts, fibers, bacteria, etc. Small and thin objects are also examined al the lower powers.
    Once the NanoRacks Microscope-1 (optical) USB is connected to a laptop, a USB Video Device window pops up and displays real-time video of the microscope camera. The crew member can adjust the position of the sample and focus the microscope as well as choose the magnification from the 5x, 10x or 20x objectives. When the desired image is obtained the crew member uses the mouse pointer to select "Take a new picture". The image is captured and displayed below the video image on the popup. When the desired images are captured, the crew member opens a destination file for the images and copies them from the USB Video Device popup to the destination file for later downlink to the ground.
    NanoRacks Microscope-2 (reflective) utilizes the same video head as NanoRacks Microscope-1; however, the microscope body is different. The base of NanoRacks Microscope-2 contains the lighting system, which is powered by two AAA alkaline batteries. The light is a polycarbonate Light Emitting Diode (LED) that is controlled by a rheostat/switch on the right side of the base of NanoRacks Microscope-2. The reflective microscope features 20x to 40x, and 200x digital power magnification as well as a 20x eyepiece for viewing with 4x to 8x, and 50x power. The NanoRacks Microscope-2 is available for use Expeditions 23/24-41/42.
    NanoRacks Microscope-3 (optical) is a 5 megapixel handheld digital microscope with adjustable polarization for glare reduction. and 8 white LEDs for sample illumination. NanoRacks Microscope-3 features 10x to 240x zoom magnification. NanoRacks Microscope-3 includes a stand and XY translation stage for precise sample handling and focusing.

    ^ back to top


    Facility Operations

    • The NanoRacks Microscopes are used with an ExPRESS Rack Laptop computer or NanoRacks Platform to view samples on standard microscope slides.
    • Once installed, the NanoRacks Microscopes are removed from the NanoRacks Frame as needed by other investigations on board the ISS.
    • Images and video are downloaded to an ExPRESS Rack Laptop computer or NanoRacks Platform as required for file downlink to Earth.

    ^ back to top

    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

    ^ back to top
    Results/More Information

    Results Publications

    ^ back to top

    Ground Based Results Publications

    ^ back to top

    ISS Patents

    ^ back to top

    Related Publications

    ^ back to top

    Related Websites

    ^ back to top


    NanoRacks Microscope-3 is an off the shelf USB microscope. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.

    + View Larger Image

    NanoRacks Microscope-1 is an off the shelf USB microscope. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.

    + View Larger Image

    NanoRacks Microscope-2 is an off the shelf USB microscope. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.

    + View Larger Image

    Image of Astronaut Don Pettit’s arm during NanoRacks Microscope-2 activation on the ISS. Image courtesy of NanoRacks LLC.

    + View Larger Image