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Space Biology Program

Vegetable Production System (Veggie)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) was developed to be a simple, easily stowed, high growth volume, low resource facility capable of producing fresh vegetables on the International Space Station (ISS) for flight crew consumption and for scientists to conduct experiments to learn how to grow food plants in space.  In addition to growing vegetables in space, Veggie has supported a variety of experiments used to determine how plants respond to microgravity, provide real-time psychological benefits for the crew, and conduct outreach activities.  Veggie is a deployable plant growth unit that provides "salad-type" crops to the crew for a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food, in addition to supporting relaxation and recreation.  Veggie provides lighting, water and nutrient delivery for efficient plant growth, utilizing the cabin environment for temperature and relative humidity control and a source of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.  Veggie contains a large adjustable LED light bank that makes this system an ideal facility for experiments requiring a light source.  To grow plants, a reservoir supplies water via capillary action to root pillows containing substrate, nutrients and seeds.  Water is administered on-orbit to initiate seed germination and periodically added throughout the growth cycle to provide a continuous water supply until the vegetables are harvested.  NASA scientists are using this device in research work designed to further develop the capabilities of the hardware to generate produce for astronaut consumption.  Further details about the "Pick and Eat" Project jointly sponsored by the Human Research Program and Space Biology can be found at

Veggie was designed and built by Orbital Technologies Corporation (now part of Sierra Nevada Corporation) for NASA, sponsored by the Space Biology Program in the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division of NASA.  Currently, two Veggie facilities reside on the ISS.  The first Veggie was delivered to the ISS aboard SpaceX CRS-3, which launched on 4/18/14.  The second Veggie launched to the ISS aboard Orbital ATK-7 (OA-7) on 4/18/17.  Each Veggie was launched in a collapsed state of less than 1 cubic foot then installed into an ExPRESS Rack in the ISS Columbus module.  The Veggies can be placed in a side-by-side or top-to-bottom configuration, depending on ExPRESS Rack availability.  For plant growth experiments, Veggie expands to nearly 4 cubic feet.  The Veggie growth chamber provides fresh vegetables for dietary variety, serves as a test bed for plant growth and development investigations, and provides a method to catalog food microbial safety across a number of planting cycles and crop types.  Veggie is a low power controlled environment chamber for growing plants in microgravity.  It provides lighting and water delivery systems, and relies on the cabin environment for temperature and relative humidity control and carbon dioxide to promote growth.  The Veggie bellows provides partial containment to slightly elevate humidity above cabin levels.  It weighs less than 8 kg and requires no more than 90W of power.  Each Veggie has a growing area of approximately 1.7 square feet and a maximum growing height of 18 inches.  Veggie is cooled by ExPRESS Rack Avionics Air Assembly (AAA) air and provides red, green, and blue light spectra.  For food plant experiments conducted through 2018, seeds and nutrients have been inserted into plant growth pillows then the pillows were installed upon a root mat reservoir placed into the Veggie bellows.  A new plant growth container, called Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS), is currently under development and testing.  The PONDS will provide researchers with an alternative plant growth capability in addition to the pillows.  Veggie has also supported Petri plate and Magenta container science experiments as part of the Advanced Plant Experiment (APEX) payload series.  APEX investigations have included monocot and dicot plant species that were grown for a pre-defined duration, photographed, harvested, and preserved for return to Earth.  Whether using pillows, PONDS, or Petri plates, the Veggie light and fan settings are programmed and lighting intensity, light cycling and the height of the bellows enclosure are adjusted as desired.  Fans and ventilation holes in the Veggie growth volume provide ISS cabin air to the growing plants.  As the plants grow, Veggie requires minimal crew maintenance (e.g., adding water, adjusting the bellows, adjusting air flow through the growth volume).  At the desired time point, the crew harvests the plants and preserves them for return to Earth where they undergo analyses.  Edible portions of food plants can be consumed by the crew while the inedible biomass is discarded or returned to Earth.

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