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uG-LilyPond - Floating Plant Pond for Microgravity, Phase I

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

The proposed μG-LilyPond is an autonomous environmentally controlled floating plant cultivation system for use in microgravity. The μG-LilyPond concept expands the types of crops that can be grown on a spacecraft in a flexible, efficient, low maintenance package. The μG-LilyPond features several innovations relative to state of the art, including passive water and nutrient delivery to floating plants, volume efficiency, minimal time for maintenance, full life-cycle (seed to seed) support, and crop flexibility. Small floating macrophytes like Duckweed and Azolla are 100% edible (with no inedible biomass), nutritious (high in protein), exceptionally fast growing, and able to thrive in nutrient rich wastewater. The μG-LilyPond concept aims to maximize production of these tiny plants in a very small volume, for use as a crew dietary supplement, atmospheric revitalization component (CO2 reduction to O2), and potentially a metabolic wastewater treatment facility. The goal of this Phase I project is to develop a conceptual design for a reliable, flexible, and efficient floating plant production system for use in microgravity. Phase 1 Objectives are to 1. Determine feasibility of passive water delivery to floating aquatic plants in microgravity; 2. Determine feasibility for continuous autonomous biomass harvest and water (effluent) extraction; 3. Determine feasibility of autonomous floating plant propagation; 4. Define autonomous environmental monitoring and control methods to support candidate crops; 5. Estimate cultivation system efficiency, in terms of production capacity versus equivalent system mass; and 6. Plan for future development of a fully functional flight unit. This collaborative effort between Space Lab Technologies, LLC and the Bioastronautics research group from the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department will combine modeling, analysis, and engineering to demonstrate technology feasibility. More »

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