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Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division

Vegetable Production System (Veggie)

Active 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. Currently, Veggie provides the largest volume available for plant growth on the ISS. 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. Additional water is administered on-orbit to initiate seed germination and provide a continuous water supply throughout the growth cycle until the vegetables are harvested.  NASA scientists are using this device currently 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: https://taskbook.nasaprs.com/Publication/index.cfm?action=public_query_taskbook_content&TASKID=10455  

Veggie has been designed and built by ORBITEC for NASA, sponsored by the Space Biology Program in the Space Life and Physical Sciences Division of NASA. Veggie was first delivered to the ISS aboard the SpaceX-3 CRS mission. Initially launched in a collapsed state of less than 1 cubic foot, Veggie expands to nearly 4 cubic feet and is installed in an EXPRESS Rack in the Columbus module of the ISS. The Veggie growth chamber provides fresh vegetables for dietary variety, serves as a test bed for both 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. Veggie has a growing area of approximately 1.7 square feet and a maximum growing height of 18 inches. Cooled by circulated EXPRESS rack air, Veggie provides red, green, and blue light spectra. Seeds and nutrients are inserted into plant pillows, and the pillows are installed upon a root mat reservoir placed into the Veggie bellows. Light and fan settings are programmed and water is added to the pillows and root mat to begin seed germination. Lighting intensity and 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.) When plants reach maturity, the edible portions of the plants can be harvested, and used in experiments or for food, and the inedible biomass discarded or returned to Earth for analysis.

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