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Scientists and payload developers can get more information on International Space Station research facilities by contacting the ISS Payloads Office or at 281-244-6187.

Autonomous Biological System (ABS)


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

Facility Overview

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Brief Facility Summary

The Autonomous Biological System (ABS) is a self-contained, isolated aquatic habitat that requires only gross control of temperature to maintain cabin standards and cabin lighting to remain active. The contained system can house aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, or aquatic vertebrates and remains viable for up to 18 months. The unit provides long-term propagation of aquatic species to understand the effects of microgravity on species multigenerational propagation.

Facility Manager(s)

Information Pending

Co-Facility Manager(s)

Information Pending

Facility Developer(s)

Paragon Space Development Corporation, Tucson, AZ, United States

Sponsoring Agency

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Expeditions Assigned


Previous ISS Missions

The Autonomous Biological System has flown on several space shuttle, Mir, and International Space Station missions.

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

  • The Autonomous Biological System (ABS) is designed to allow for controlled propagation of aquatic species in a highly autonomous environment, either within an isothermal containment module that provides input of photosynthetically active radiation or thermally protected from launch as a standalone system and deployed to the International Space Station (ISS).

  • The ABS provides long-term biological propagation of species to elucidate the effects of microgravity on species behavior, morphology, and adaptation.


Paragon's patented Autonomous Biological System (ABS) provides for the long-term growth and breeding of aquatic plants and animals in a controlled environment, isolated from the spacecraft's life support system and cabin atmosphere contaminants and requiring little or no crewmember interaction.

The ABS consists of two cylinders of Lexan topped by aluminum screw caps. The clear Lexan allows for continuous observation by the crewmember or by ground personnel via video camera. Nutrients and elemental compounds are introduced during system loading, allowing for a self-regulating environment that maintains adequate nutrients and oxygen for the experiment subjects through continuous day-night cycles.

The ABS has proven to be adaptable to different flight environments, including the Progress, space shuttle, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS), and has displayed a robust ability to recover from unplanned events. The ABS has been successfully adapted to support Halocaridina rubra (red shrimp), Hyalella azteca (freshwater amphipod), and Heterandria Formosa (mosquito fish), demonstrating its ability to be used with various species in space.

Each ABS cylinder can hold approximately 3.6 L, has dimensions of 22.9 cm x 15.2 cm x 7.6 cm, and weighs less than 2 kg. If ISS lighting is used, no power is required; if an internal light source is used, less than 15 W is needed. The ABS should be kept in a cabin air temperature of 18.3 to 29.4 C.

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Facility Operations

The Autonomous Biological System (ABS) requires late load into the spacecraft, less than 48 hours before launch. If an internal light source is used, the crewmember will initiate the light on-light off sequence.

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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  • Operated on ISS
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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
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation
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    image The Autonomous Biological System (ABS) provides for long-term growth and breeding of aquatic plants and animals within complete material closure, isolated from the spacecraft life support system and cabin atmosphere contaminants, and with little need for astronaut intervention. Image courtesy of Paragon Space Development Corporation.
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.