Biotube (Biotube) - 07.19.17

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Biotube is a single middeck locker replacement facility designed to provide a large triple-containment experiment volume with a command and data management system for experiments onboard the International Space Station.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by David R. Cox, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
David R. Cox, Kennedy Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, FL, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Charles D. Quincy, Kennedy Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, FL, United States

NASA Kennedy Space Center, Space Life Sciences Laboratory, FL, United States
Bionetics Corporation, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2000 - November 2000

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
The Biotube was used on STS-107 for the Magnetic Field Apparatus experiment.


  • Retired/Returned/Disposed
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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • Biotube is a fully automatic apparatus that does not require continuous supervision. It allows on-orbit crew interaction through the front-panel user interface and provides for environment (temperature, humidity, pressure) monitoring.

    • It also delivers fixative to the specimen and provides a digital imaging system that allows video images to be viewed on the front-panel user interface and downlinked in real time during the mission.
    All Biotube hardware components are contained within the Generic External Shell (GES), which is geometrically equivalent to and replaces a single standard Orbiter middeck locker. The Generic Containment Unit (GCU) provides three levels of redundant containment for the experiment-unique hardware and is located inside the envelope of the GES. The Command and Data Management System (CDMS) is located outside the GCU, but is contained within the GES. The Biotube uses Orbiter-provided 28-Vdc power and an onboard fan to cool the CDMS electronics.

    The main hardware components and their functions are summarized as follows:
    • Generic External Shell - Provides generic housing for Space Shuttle Program middeck experiments. It houses all the subelements of the Biotube experiment, providing structural support to the subelements via a pair of attached rails.

    • Generic Containment Unit - Provides three levels of containment to all subelements of the Biotube except the CDMS. This is necessary, because the hardware contains water and a fixative liquid that must be restrained should the Biotube malfunction.

    • Water Delivery System - Consists of the micro-effusion delivery unit for space applications, a stepper motor, and tubing. It is controlled by the Biotube command system, which can activate the system and control the delivery of liquids without the intervention of the crew . The system can deliver up to 0.6 mL of water to each sample container. No fixative is present in the Water Delivery System. A piston-driven system ensures that the water is delivered simultaneously to all sample containers.

    • Fixative Storage and Delivery System - Stores and delivers the fixative to the sample containers. This is a self-contained and sealed system. An air pump pressurizes the fixative storage container, triggering the opening of a valve to allow the fixative to flow serially through all sample containers. A waste bag at the end of the circuit takes in the fixative as it is expelled from the sample containers.

    • Digital Imaging System - The system consists of 4 charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras, a video multiplexer, a lighting multiplexer, and 16 infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The LEDs provide illumination while the photos are being taken.

    • Command and Data Management System - This system houses the bulk of the electronics used to provide overall control of the integrated subsystems. It also houses the man-machine interface (the latter consists of a graphical user interface with a mouse pointer, system status and error message display, image display, and other functions).
    The Biotube requires EXPRESS 28 Vdc for operation.

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    Facility Operations

    • The Biotube is an autonomous system controlled by an embedded control system. It allows crew interaction on-orbit through the front panel user interface.

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    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Results Publications

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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 Biotube Generic Containment Unit with cover removed. Image courtesy of Kennedy Space Center.
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