Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) - 01.16.19

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Plants brighten homes and offices on Earth, and the same is true for space. Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) provides lighting and nutrient supply for a space garden, supporting a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for educational outreach, fresh food and even recreation for crew members on long-duration missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Gioia D. Massa, Ph.D., Raymond M. Wheeler, Robert Morrow, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Veg-01

Principal Investigator(s)
Gioia D. Massa, Ph.D., NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
Raymond M. Wheeler, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
Robert Morrow, Ph.D., ORBITEC SNC, Madison, WI, United States

Information Pending

NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Assess ease of set-up and operation of Veggie hardware and science.
  • Assess capacity for Veggie hardware and pillows to effectively germinate seeds.
  • Assess capacity for Veggie hardware and pillows to effectively sustain plant growth and adequate media moisture:
    • Compare growth in different media combinations
    • Collect environmental data via data logger (e.g. HOBO)
    • Record plant development with photographs.
  • Assess crew handling aspects of Veggie (planting, daily plant checks and reservoir refilling, harvesting, pillow disposal, sanitation) and determine effectiveness of established crew procedures.
  • Assess crew psychological benefits of plant growth and crew acceptance of Veggie operations (questionnaire).
  • Analyze microbial status and assess sanitation methods.


The overall goal of Veg-01 is to demonstrate proof-of concept for the Veggie plant growth chamber and the planting pillows. This research builds upon hardware development via an SBIR grant to ORBITEC for the initial prototype Veggie units with subsequent hardware development for next-generation units. Both ORBITEC and KSC have been involved in plant growth optimization of the Veggie hardware and testing and collaboration have resulted in the development of the pillow planting concept to interface with the Veggie hardware. Through numerous tests the VEG-01 science team has refined the pillow concept and selected growth media and fertilizers, plant species, materials, and protocols for using the pillow concept in Veggie to grow healthy plants that can provide crew with food and recreation. The pillow concept is designed to be low mass, modular, require no additional energy and be very low maintenance. Pillows of different sizes have been designed to accommodate a wide variety of plant types and different types of growing media.
The primary goal of the Veg-01 testing will be to demonstrate plant growth in the Veggie hardware using lettuce as a test species. One set of Zinnia seeds will also be flown to test a long duration growth of a flowering plant in the VEGGIE facility. Plants will be grown in two different sizes of arcillite, a calcined clay media. This test will help us compare root zones of the two media sizes to determine water and root distribution in the different sized-particles to provide recommendations for future Veggie investigations. Shoot samples will also provide information on any growth anomalies when compared with ground controls and will provide information on microbial growth and food safety. Photographs will be used to assess plant growth rates and plant health. A data logger will record the environment within the Veggie hardware. Crew questionnaires will provide insight into the appropriateness and thoroughness of the crew procedures for Veggie hardware and plant growth operations.
Pillows are single use and thus reduce the chances of microbial contamination of the Veggie hardware and produce. A major aspect of the proof of concept flight, Veg-01, is to collect baseline microbial data from plants and pillows grown on the International Space Station (ISS). Ground testing has demonstrated very low microbial levels on lettuce plants grown in Veggie-relevant conditions. Discussions with space microbiologists, flight surgeons, and space food technologists at JSC indicate that if microbial levels are sufficiently low the crew could consume the fresh produce without sanitizing. For crops that naturally have higher levels of microorganisms (e.g. radishes, which grow in contact with water and nutrients) a space-rated produce sanitation method must be developed and tested.
The baseline data collected from the Veg-01 flight will be a resource for future Veggie investigations. This information will provide data on necessary procedural changes, hardware upgrades or horticultural options as Veggie becomes an integral part of ISS expeditions in the future.

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Space Applications
NASA has been studying crop support systems for more than 30 years, with a goal of designing a self-sustaining life support system for crew members. But no large-scale crop production tests have yet been conducted in space. The International Space Station provides an ideal platform for producing a larger volume of plants in a controlled environment using limited power. Growing plants in space provides crew members with fresh foods to supplement their diets, as well as a positive effect on morale and well-being.

Earth Applications
Plants cultivated on the International Space Station can be used for educational outreach activities on Earth. In addition, the station offers limited size and power capabilities, which can provide insight into plant cultivation methods for small spaces with minimal energy.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

  • Set up and activation of Veggie facility.
  • Priming of plant pillows.
  • Initial filling of the Veggie reservoir and initial water sampling.
  • Wick opening after 3 days.
  • Plant thinning after 7 days.
  • Experiment run duration: 60 days with harvest, swab sampling, water sampling and pillow sampling.
  • Time between harvest and MELFI insertion: <1 hours.
  • Weekly photos of plant growth requested.
  • Harvest photos required; request live video of harvest operations when possible.
  • Return Consists of:
    • Microbial swabs, plant samples, water sample syringes and plant pillows return at -95°C in GLACIER.
    • Data logger returned at +4 in Cold Bag.
    • Photos returned via downlink.
  • Sanitation of Veggie hardware following harvest.

Veggie will be activated and the desired photoperiod, light levels, and fan speed programmed in via the control panel. The bellows baseplate assembly will be removed from the Veggie hardware. The root mat will then be placed in the Veggie bellows assembly. Six plant pillows will then be destowed and placed on the root mat in designated positions. The watering syringe assembly and water bag will be used to pull water from PWD and inject it into the plant pillow priming fitting to initially wet each pillow. The bellows and baseplate assembly will be reinstalled in the Veggie hardware and the bellows will be attached to the light cap. Water from PWD will be used for the initial filling of the root mat reservoir. After filling the root mat, and initial water sample will be taken and placed in MELFI at -80°C. Initial photos of the setup will be taken. The Veggie unit will be checked daily and additional water from PWD will be added as needed using the watering kit syringe. Wicks will be opened on day 3 after initiation.  Plants will be thinned to one plant per pillow after 7 days.  Weekly photos of plant growth will be taken and downloaded to the ground.   After 60 days, final photographs and microbial samples will be taken, and plant samples will be collected (live video of harvest operations would be desirable).  The lettuce plants will be harvested by cutting the stem at the interface of the plant pillow and wrapped in foil sheets, placed in a sample return bag, and placed in MELFI at <-80°C. Two plant pillows, a post-harvest water sample, and microbial swab samples should be placed in MELFI at <-80°C less than 1 hour after collection.  Remaining pillows should be disposed of by placing in plastic trash bags.  The root mat will be discarded.  Prosan wipes followed by dry wipes will be used to clean and sanitize the interior of the Veggie unit and then discarded.  Final photographs will be sent to the PIs via downlink.  Science samples including the data logger will be returned on the first available flight after harvest, the data logger will be returned at +4°C in a Cold Bag and plant, water, swab and pillow samples return at -95°C in GLACIER.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

“Veggie” is a small vegetable production unit with a passive water delivery system. Designed for space flight, plants can be grown in Veggie using small bags “pillows” with a wicking surface containing soil and fertilizer. The Veggie vegetable production system was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with three sets of test plants for an initial hardware validation experiment named VEG-01. Two growth bags held the crop ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce, while the third contained ‘Profusion’ zinnia plants for longer duration growth and observing flowering characteristics. The self-irrigation capability of the system in all three growth studies presented a challenge, with lettuce suffering from inadequate water and zinnia suffering from excess water. Direct plant pillow watering by crew members enabled plant growth, and returned samples from the first crop indicated that food safety was acceptable. Later lettuce harvests were split to allow for on-orbit crew consumption as well as science sample return. Direct-watered zinnias suffered fungal growth and other physiological stresses, but two plants survived and these produced numerous flowers. Previous ground studies showed that soil characteristics may influence the growth of these species, it seems likely that water and aeration may be the most important factors for these growth pillows. Small, single-use pillows appear to provide acceptable growth of a variety of salad and herb species and offer a simple, effective strategy for containing rooting media and avoiding manual watering while growing plants in the Veggie spaceflight hardware. The ISS VEG-01 experiment yielded a large amount of data on system performance, human factors, procedures, microbiology, and chemistry of space grown plants to be gathered. Observations from these tests are helping to drive future hardware modifications and provide information on food crop growth and development in a microgravity environment.

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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 NASA Image: ISS040E009124 - NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, harvests a crop of red romaine lettuce plants from the Veg-01 experiment.
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image NASA Image: ISS039E019407 - NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, harvests a crop of red romaine lettuce plants from the Veg-01 experiment.
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NASA Image: ISS040E000039 - Image of a daily check on a Veg-01 experiment.

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image NASA Image: ISS040E010477 - View of the Veg-01 crop just before harvest.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E033362 - View of the fully grown Veg-01 lettuce crop.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E045602 - JAXA astronaut Kimiya Yui is photographed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) holding a piece of Lettuce grown for the Veg-01 experiment.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E045813 - NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren harvests plants for the VEG-01 investigation.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E045825 - NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren on the International Space Station are getting their taste buds ready for the first taste of food that's grown, harvested and eaten in space, a critical step on the path to Mars.
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