NanoRacks Microscopes


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Facility Overview

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Brief Facility Summary

The NanoRacks Microscopes facility includes modified commercial off-the-shelf optical and reflective microscopes. NanoRacks Microscopes utilize plug-and-play USB technology and allow crewmembers to analyze and digitally transfer images of International Space Station (ISS) on-orbit samples.

Facility Manager(s)

Information Pending

Co-Facility Manager(s)

  • Michael Johnson, NanoRacks, LLC, Houston, TX, United States
  • Facility Developer(s)

    NanoRacks, LLC, Houston, TX, United States

    Sponsoring Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • NanoRacks Microscopes are designed to view specimens or objects on a computer screen and allow for snapshot images or short videos to be taken.

    • The microscopes operate on battery power so they can be taken anywhere.


    The NanoRacks Microscopes Facility includes two modified Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) microscopes. The microscopes are used on the International Space Station (ISS) to study in-situ samples and downlink images to ground via the EXPRESS Rack Laptop computer. Both the NanoRacks Optical Microscope (NanoRacks Module-5) and the NanoRacks Reflective Microscope (NanoRacks Module-12) are Universal Serial Bus (USB), plug into any laptop and use resident Microsoft Windows software for image capture.

    Once the NanoRacks Optical Microscope USB is connected to a laptop, a USB Video Device window pops up and displays real-time video of the microscope camera. The crewmember can adjust the position of the sample and focus the microscope as well as choose the magnification from the 5X, 10X or 20X objectives. When the desired image is obtained the crewmember uses the mouse pointer to select "Take a new picture". The image is captured and displayed below the video image on the popup. When the desired images are captured, the crewmember opens a destination file for the images and copies them from the USB Video Device popup to the destination file for later downlink to the ground. The NanoRacks Optical Microscope is ideally suited for examining specimen slides of yeasts and molds, cultures, plant and animal parts, fibers, bacteria, etc. Small and thin objects are also examined al the lower powers.

    The NanoRacks Reflective Microscope utilizes the same video head as NanoRacks Optical Microscope; however, the microscope body is different. The base of the reflective microscope contains the lighting system which is powered by two AAA alkaline batteries. The light is a polycarbonate Light Emitting Diode (LED) that is controlled by a rheostat/switch on the right side of the base of the reflective microscope. The reflective microscope features 20x to 40x, and 200x digital power magnification as well as a 20x eyepiece for viewing with 4x to 8x, and 50x power. The reflective microscope is used to study insects, plants, circuit boards, various materials, skin, and many other objects.

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    Facility Operations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

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  • Developed for 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
  • Nanoracks
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    image NanoRacks Microscopes Optical Microscope is an off the shelf USB microscope. Image courtesy of NanoRacks, LLC.
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    image Image of Astronaut Don Pettit’s arm during NanoRacks Reflective Microscope activation on the ISS. Image courtesy of NanoRacks, LLC.
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