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J Gravit Physiol. 2004 Mar;11(1):57-65.

BIOPACK: the ground controlled late access biological research facility.

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Dutch Experiment Support Center (DESC), Oral Biology, ACTA Vrije Universiteit & Univ. van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Future Space Shuttle flights shall be characterized by activities necessary to further build the International Space Station, ISS. During these missions limited resources are available to conduct biological experiments in space. The Shuttles' Middeck is a very suitable place to conduct science during the ISS assembly missions or dedicated science missions. The BIOPACK, which flew its first mission during the STS-107, provides a versatile Middeck Locker based research tool for gravitational biology studies. The core facility occupies the space of only two Middeck Lockers. Experiment temperatures are controlled for bacteria, plant, invertebrate and mammalian cultures. Gravity levels and profiles can be set ranging from 0 to 2.0 x g on three independent centrifuges. This provides the experimenter with a 1.0 x g on-board reference and intermediate hypogravity and hypergravity data points to investigate e.g. threshold levels in biological responses. Temperature sensitive items can be stored in the facilities' -10 degrees C and +4 degrees C stowage areas. During STS-107 the facility also included a small glovebox (GBX) and passive temperature controlled units (PTCU). The GBX provides the experimenter with two extra levels of containment for safe sample handling. This biological research facility is a late access (L-10 hrs) laboratory, which, when reaching orbit, could automatically be starting up reducing important experiment lag-time and valuable crew time. The system is completely telecommanded when needed. During flight system parameters like temperatures, centrifuge speeds, experiment commanding or sensor readouts can be monitored and changed when needed. Although ISS provides a wide range of research facilities there is still need for an STS-based late access facility such as the BIOPACK providing experimenters with a very versatile research cabinet for biological experiments under microgravity and in-flight control conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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