Biological Research In Canisters (BRIC) - 03.07.18

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Biological Research In Canisters (BRIC) is comprised of a suite of 6 distinct hardware configurations. Small, biological specimens, typically housed in either Petri plates or culture chambers, are contained within aluminum cylinders or boxes. Investigations study the effects of the microgravity environment.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Arthur D. Flowers, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Bionetics Corp., Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Space Life Sciences Laboratory, FL, United States
Vencore Corp., Chantilly, VA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2006 - April 2007; March 2010 - September 2010; March 2011 - September 2011; March 2013 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
BRIC hardware was flown aboard the Space Shuttle on the STS-63, 64, 68, 69, 70, 77, 78, 80, 85, 87, 93, 95 and 107 missions. BRIC hardware was flown aboard the SpaceX Dragon on the SpX-2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12, and 13.

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

The first Biological Research In Canisters (BRIC) configuration used an aluminum cylinder, which housed specimens contained within a 60mm Petri dish, for passive investigations into the effects of spaceflight on small, biological specimens. Over time, a series of diverse BRIC hardware variants was created to accommodate increasingly more complex requirements for investigations during spaceflight.
BRIC-60: The BRIC-60 configuration allows biological specimens, contained within 60mm Petri dishes, to be installed into an aluminum cylinder. The “full canister” BRIC-60 configuration includes a lower canister, upper canister, and lid. It can also be flown in a “half-canister” configuration using only the lower canister and lid. The BRIC-60 maintains a light-tight environment inside the canister chamber. The BRIC-60 houses twenty-four 60mm Petri dishes in the full-canister configuration and 12 in the half-canister configuration. BRIC-60 provides an alternate configuration allowing 13 Teflon tubes per canister. Each canister weighs 0.9 kg, is 15.9 cm long, and is 9.2 cm in diameter. No electrical power is provided. A BRIC-60M variant allows gas samples to be drawn from a lower canister with 2 gas sampling ports.
BRIC-60s, along with all other BRIC canisters, are transported to/from the International Space Station (ISS) via either a Double Cold Bag (DCB) when conditioned transport is required or a Cargo Transfer Bag (CTB) when conditioned stowage is not required.
BRIC-100: The BRIC-100 configuration allows biological specimens, contained within 100mm Petri dishes, to be installed into an aluminum cylinder. The BRIC-100 canister has a threaded lid on each end to provide 2 distinct configurations. One, a light-tight configuration with solid lids to provide a gas-impermeable, sealed configuration. The other utilizes gas-permeable lids, which allows passive gas exchange of O2 and CO2 via membrane. The bottom and top lids of the breathable canister have twenty-five 1cm holes and a Teflon membrane (pore size 0.5 µm). Two septa located in the lid allow for gas sampling. The vented BRIC-100 configuration is not light-tight, and neither configuration is provided electrical power.
BRIC-100 can accommodate 9 100mm Petri dishes when a vibration-isolating rack is utilized. Without the rack, the 21 Petri dishes can be stacked within the BRIC-100. The BRIC-100 canister is 38.0cm in length and 11.4cm in diameter.
BRIC-100VC: The BRIC-100VC configuration allows biological specimens, contained within 100mm Petri dishes, to be installed into an aluminum cylinder. BRIC-100VC is a shorter canister than the BRIC-100 and utilizes lids with rapid-disconnect valves for canister purging. These valves provide the capability to control atmospheric composition. Additionally, the top lid includes a toggle latch and O-ring assembly, which provides prompt sealing and removal of the lid.
The BRIC-100VC canister is 16.0cm long and 11.4cm in diameter.
BRIC-OPTI: The BRIC-OPTI configuration allows biological specimens, contained within Nunc OptiCell® culture chambers, to be installed into an aluminum box. The culture chambers offer a closed environment with an atmosphere of known initial composition for microbial growth in space. BRIC-OPTI provides redundant levels of containment during all phases of operation. The BRIC-Opti has no active thermal control, and specimens are specifically selected that are tolerant to the ambient thermal environment on the ISS. Each BRIC-OPTI is capable of holding 4 commercially available Nunc OptiCell® culture chambers.
Nunc OptiCell® culture chambers comprise a sealed polystyrene frame with 2 gas-permeable polystyrene membranes that provide a hermetically sealed, sterile enclosed area for microbial or cell culture growth. Media and inoculum can be introduced into the interstitial space between the membrane windows via two resealing septum ports, reducing the risk of contamination. The polystyrene membranes are transparent for basic microscopic observations and histological sectioning. Each BRIC-OPTI contains a single battery-powered, autonomous multi-channel data logger equipped with relative humidity and temperature sensors. Data loggers are activated prior to final canister assembly and data are retrieved post-flight. Additionally, an internal gas sample can be collected using an external port located on the BRIC-OPTI lid.
BRIC-PDFU (Petri Dish Fixation Unit): The BRIC-PDFU configuration allows biological specimens, contained within 60mm Petri dishes, to be installed into polycarbonate blocks, which are then installed into an aluminum box. The polycarbonate blocks (PDFUs) provide the ability to deliver both nutrient and fixative solutions to biological specimens housed in the Petri dishes. Important information can be gained through simple experiments in which organisms are taken to space, chemically fixed (or stabilized), and then returned for post-flight processing. The BRIC-PDFU is designed to accomplish this using a minimal amount (typically less than 1 hour) of astronaut crew time. Biological specimens are placed within 60mm Petri dishes containing agar-solidified media, although alternative approaches will be considered. Each Petri dish is then placed inside its own individually sealed PDFU. The PDFUs are assembled and loaded with up to 17mL of either 1 or 2 fluids, such as a nutrient solution and/or a chemical fixative, in a reservoir compartment as specified by the selected investigators. Six PDFUs, or 5 PDFUs plus one temperature data logger, depending on the investigator’s requirements, are then loaded into each BRIC canister. No electrical power is provided to the BRIC-PDFU.
Along with the BRIC-PDFUs, a tool is flown which the crew uses to actuate the hardware. Crew members perform up to 2 in-flight operations per PDFU to expose the biology to liquid treatments (determined by the selected investigators) and/or chemical fixatives (e.g., glutaraldehyde, RNAlater, formaldehyde) on-orbit prior to return.
A diverse range of investigations can be undertaken, including, but not limited to, plant seedlings (e.g., Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula), callus cultures, Caenorhabditis elegans, microbes, and others. The PDFUs remain contained within the BRIC canisters during all phases of flight operations. In a typical usage scenario, the BRIC-PDFUs can be stowed at a predetermined temperature (for example +4°C) for ascent and transfer to the ISS, activated on orbit by warming to ambient or placement in an incubator, actuated by the crew, thereby preserving specimens for return, and then transferred to cold stowage or other ambient stowage based on experiment objectives. In the event of a launch scrub, the entire assembly can be replaced with an identical back-up unit in order to maintain freshly loaded specimens.
BRIC-LED: The BRIC-LED is essentially the same as the BRIC-PDFU, except it provides the capability to expose the biology to light treatments. Each Petri dish can be discretely illuminated by 4 LED wavelengths (blue, red, far-red, and white). Light intensity and on/off cycling are configured as specified by the investigator. The hardware design is flexible enough to substitute LED packages that include different wavelengths.
BRIC-LED canister temperatures are controlled, using forced air-cooling, to ± 3°C of the surrounding air temperature, with no more than a 1.5°C differential between canisters. Additionally, the BRIC-LED monitors and logs temperature, LED status, canister pressure, and accelerometer data.

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Facility Operations

  • All BRIC configurations provide 3 levels of biological containment.
  • BRIC-60s, BRIC-100s, and BRIC-100VCs are aluminum cylinders capable of housing biological specimens in Petri dishes, tubes, or an alternative. Some are capable of controlling the interior atmospheric composition. All may contain a temperature data logger if necessary.
  • BRIC-OPTIs, BRIC-PDFUs, and BRIC-LEDs utilize aluminum boxes with sealed lids to house biological specimens. BRIC-PDFUs and BRIC-LEDs allow the crew to deliver fluid treatments to biological specimens during spaceflight. BRIC-LEDs allow biological specimens to be exposed to light treatments and provide limited temperature conditioning.
  • The BRIC-LED Facility resides permanently aboard the ISS in an EXPRESS Rack and is utilized to house BRIC-LED canisters.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Results Publications

    Schultz ER, Zupanska AK, Manning-Roach S, Camacho J, Levine HG, Paul AL, Ferl RJ.  Testing the Bio-compatibility of Aluminum PDFU BRIC Hardware. Gravitational and Space Biology. 2012 October; 26(2): 48-63.

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Ground Based Results Publications

    Basu P, Kruse CP, Luesse D, Wyatt SE.  Growth in spaceflight hardware results in alterations to the transcriptome and proteome. Life Sciences in Space Research. 2017 September. DOI: 10.1016/j.lssr.2017.09.001.

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Kern VD, Sack FD.  Effects of Spaceflight (STS-87) on Tropisms and Plastid Positioning in Protonemata of the Moss Ceratodon Purpureus. Advances in Space Research. 2001; 27(5): 941-949.

    Krikorian AD.  Minimal Growth Maintenance of Cell Cultures: A Perspective on Management for Extended Duration Experimentation in the Microgravity Environment of a Space Station. Botanical Review. 1996; 62(1): 41-108.

    Brown C, Hilaire EM, Guikema JA, Piastuch WC, Johnson CF, Stryjewski EC, Peterson BV, Vordermark DS.  Metabolism, ultrastructure and growth of soybean seedlings in microgravity: results from the BRIC-01 and BRIC-03 experiments. Gravitational and Space Biology. 1995; 9: 93.

    Zupanska AK, Denison FD, Ferl RJ, Paul AL.  Spaceflight engages heat shock protein and other molecular chaperone genes in tissue culture cells of Arabidopsis thaliana. American Journal of Botany. 2013; 100(1): 235-248. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1200343. PMID: 23258370.

    Hilaire EM, Paulsen AQ, Brown C, Guikema JA.  Plastid Distribution in Columella Cells of a Starchless Arabidopsis Mutant Grown in Microgravity. Plant and Cell Physiology. 1997; 38(4): 490-494.

    Kern VD, Schwuchow JM, Reed DW, Nadeau JA, Lucas J, Skripnikov A, Sack FD.  Gravitropic moss cells default to spiral growth on the clinostat and in microgravity during spaceflight. Planta. 2005; 221: 149-157. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-004-1467-3.

    Levine HG, Krikorian AD.  Changes in plant medium composition after a spaceflight experiment: Potassium levels are of special interest. Advances in Space Research. 2008; 42: 1060-1065. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2008.03.019.

    Paul AL, Zupanska AK, Ostrow DT, Zhang Y, Sun Y, Li J, Shanker S, Farmerie WG, Amalfitano CE, Ferl RJ.  Spaceflight Transcriptomes: Unique Responses to a Novel Environment. Astrobiology. 2012 Jan; 12(1): 40-56. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2011.0696.

    Paul AL, Zupanska AK, Schultz ER, Ferl RJ.  Organ-specific remodeling of the Arabidopsis transcriptome in response to spaceflight. BMC Plant Biology. 2013 August 7; 13(1): 112. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2229-13-112. PMID: 23919896.

    Salmi ML, Roux SJ.  Gene expression changes induced by space flight in single-cells of the fern Ceratopteris richardii. Planta. 2008; 229: 151-159. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-008-0817-y.

    Link BM, Cosgrove DJ.  Analysis of peg formation in cucumber seedlings grown on clinostats and in a microgravity (space) environment. Journal of Plant Research. 1999; 112(4): 507-516. DOI: 10.1007/PL00013907.

    Hilaire EM, Peterson BV, Guikema JA, Brown C.  Clinorotation Affects Morphology and Ethylene Production in Soybean Seedlings. Plant and Cell Physiology. 1996; 37(7): 929-934.

    Levine HG, Sharek JA, Johnson KM, Stryjewski EC, Prima VI, Martynenko OI, Piastuch WC.  Growth Protocols for Etiolated Soybeans Germinated within BRIC-60 Canisters Under Spaceflight Conditions. Advances in Space Research. 2003; 26(2): 311-314.

    Conger BV, Tomaszewski Z, McDaniel JK, Vasilenko A.  Spaceflight reduces somatic embryogenesis in orchard grass (Poaceae). Plant, Cell and Environment. 2002; 21(11): 1197-203.

    Kuznetsov OA, Brown C, Levine HG, Piastuch WC, Sanwo-Lewandowski MM, Hasenstein KH.  Composition and Physical Properties of Starch in Microgravity-Grown Plants. Advances in Space Research. 2001; 28(4): 651-658.

    Levine HG, Anderson K, Krikorian AD.  The 'Gaseous' Environment in Sealed BRIC-100VC Canisters Flown on 'Mir' with Embryogenic Daylily Cell Cultures. Advances in Space Research. 2000; 26(2): 307-310.

    Paul AL, Amalfitano CE, Ferl RJ.  Plant growth strategies are remodeled by spaceflight. BMC Plant Biology. 2012; 12(1): 232. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2229-12-232. PMID: 23217113.

    Krikorian AD.  Space stress and genome shock in developing plant cells. Physiologia Plantarum. 1996; 98: 901-908.

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Related Websites

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Various BRIC-60 configurations. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-100 configurations with Petri rack. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-100VC with Petri dish rack insert (left) and conical tube configuration (right). Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Detailed view of BRIC-LED configuration. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Various views of BRIC-Opti. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-PDFU in various configurations. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Closeup image of the BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool Kit. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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NASA Image:  ISS039E019080 - Expedition 31 flight engineer Rick Mastracchio displays the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) Actuator Tool and BRIC-18-1 Canister D during activation operations at a Maintenance Work Area (MWA) table in the Harmony Node 2. BRIC hardware has supported a variety of plant growth investigations. BRIC Canister part number (P/N) is 1019-M-2100-00, serial number (S/N) is004. The BRIC-18 investigation will focus on the growth and development of seedlings in microgravity. Seedlings will be preserved with a chemical fixative and returned to the ground for post flight evaluation.

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