Avian Development Facility (ADF) - 07.19.17

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Avian Development Facility (ADF) is a middeck-locker-equivalent facility containing two independent specimen centrifuges that can be operated to produce inertial accelerations equivalent to 0 to 5 G under feedback control. Each centrifuge has 18 sample containers, each of which was designed to hold one Japanese-quail egg for a study of the effects of microgravity on the development of fixed or live embryos. A chemical robot injects solutions into the sample containers under triple-containment conditions.
Science Results for Everyone Bird eggs are ideally suited for microgravity research: they are self-contained, self-sustaining, and don’t miss their mothers. The Avian Development Facility (ADF) on the ISS incubates eggs in ideal conditions, and its two centrifuges allow scientists to study vertebrate embryo development under gravity levels from 0 to 5Gs. Using Japanese quail eggs, researchers determined that the inner ear develops significantly fewer nerve connections in low gravity, and that musculoskeletal development differs little between 0G and 1G. The ADF can easily be modified to accommodate fish, plants, insects, or cells as well as small bird egg.

The following content was provided by Paul W. Todd, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Paul W. Todd, Techshot, Greenville, IN, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Information Pending

Techshot, Incorporated, Greenville, IN, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
December 2001 - June 2002

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
The first mission of the Avian Development Facility was STS-108/UF-1 in December 2001.


  • Retired/Returned/Disposed
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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • The Avian Development Facility (ADF) is used in continuing or follow-on studies of vertebrate animal embryo development under different inertial acceleration conditions.

    • In addition to incubating eggs under optimized conditions, the ADF can be used in a variety of partial-gravity and microgravity studies when its egg-holding sample holders are converted to containers for cell cultures, model organisms (such as flies, worms, fish, and seedlings), or microbial cultures.

    • The ADF is able to provide partial-gravity environments with two different inertial accelerations, including 1 and 0 G, at any given time.
    The Avian Development Facility (ADF) provides capacity for 36 egg holders on two identical carousels. Each carousel rotates independently, and each egg holder rotates independent of carousel rotation. The carousels are served by a chemical robot that injects reagent solutions into one sample at a time on a predetermined schedule or by remote control.

    The ADF provides a snapshot of embryogenesis (embryo development) in space using avian egg specimens as a biological model. Avian eggs are ideally suited for microgravity research because they are self-contained, self-sustaining, and unaffected by maternal host. The ADF's single middeck locker size, which is compatible with space shuttle middeck, Spacehab, and International Space Station, supports flight experiments with Japanese quail or other small eggs, and can easily be modified to accommodate fish, plants, insects, or cells.

    Any sample that can be contained within a spherical plastic container can be substituted for an avian egg in the versatile ADF holders, or the egg holders can be replaced with solid cylindrical containers. ADF provides advanced telerobotics and teleoperations to minimize dependence on crew time and significantly improve the science return of microgravity life science investigations.

    The ADF is fully programmable in a closed environment system and can be programmed to monitor and control temperature, relative humidity, oxygen supply, and carbon dioxide removal. The ADF provides full telemetry capabilities to downlink data and uplink commands for real-time telescience and telerobotic experiment manipulation. The ADF maintains optimal incubation conditions for embryos from Day 0 until the eggs hatch. The ADF can delay onset of embryo development by programming the facility for a low-temperature environment.

    ADF also provides concomitant controls at various levels of artificial gravity by programming one or both of the carousels to rotate. Independent of carousel rotation, the ADF turns each egg about its longitudinal axis automatically at programmable time intervals. The ADF automatically injects any specimen with a chemical fixative (or other liquid) upon active command or on a preprogrammed schedule. Prior to launch, specimens or samples must be loaded into the hardware; a timeline is established for operations, such as temperature profiles, fluid injections, centrifuge speeds, automated gas exchanges, and entered into the hardware's main computer using its graphical user interface. A catalogued sample or specimen is loaded into each of 18 sample holders on one centrifuge, and their control counterparts are loaded into each of the 18 sample holders on the other centrifuge. The hardware is late loaded into the spacecraft; on orbit, the investigation is initiated as designated by the investigator. One centrifuge is rotated to produce an inertial acceleration of 1 G (Earth's gravity), while the other is not rotated or provides a partial-gravity environment. During the incubation phase, it is possible to chemically fix single living specimens.

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    Facility Operations

    • Avian Development Facility (ADF) operations are initiated by the insertion of a specimen or sample into each of 36 sample containers. When the specimens are living, multicellular organisms (such as embryonated avian eggs) the locker is installed in the vehicle under late load conditions several hours prior to launch.

    • The timeline for operations is initiated on orbit as specified by the investigator. The timeline (e.g., temperature changes, fluid changes, centrifuge speeds, or gas exchanges) is executed automatically during flight and terminated prior to re-entry and landing, after which the specimens or samples are removed from the 36 holders.

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    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Two principal investigators' experiments were supported on space shuttle flight STS-108. Dr. J. D. Dickman (Washington University, St. Louis) studied the development of vestibular apparatus components and found them to be significantly less innervated when developing in low gravity. Control samples were on the ADF 1-G centrifuge aboard the space shuttle. Dr. Stephen B. Doty (Hospital for Special Surgery, New York) designed and completed a study of musculoskeletal development and found few, if any, differences in the embryonic bone development of embryos flown in 0-G and embryos flown in 1-G .

    Results Publications

      Vellinger JC, Ormsby R, Thomas N, Kennedy D, Hudson D, Todd PW.  Providing an Optimal Environment Utilizing the Avian Development Facility for Research in Microgravity. 31st International Conference On Environmental Systems, Orlando, FL; 2001

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites

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    image The Avian Development Facility is shown with its top covers removed, revealing its upper carousel and 18 sample containers (non-standard Velcro was attached during the STS-108 mission). Image courtesy of Techshot, Incorporated.
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