ORZS: Optimization of Root Zone Substrates for Microgravity 2002-01-2380
The ORZS flight experiment is designed to measure gas diffusion through plant growth substrates at varying water content levels in microgravity. This information is critical for proper water management and the prevention of root zone hypoxia during plant growth and advanced life support (ALS) biomass production experiments. Microgravity data that suggest enhanced hysteresis in water retention may alter the gas diffusion process, changing the optimum root zone moisture control set point in μg plant growth systems. Small gas diffusion cells are being evaluated as measurement systems for coarse-textured plant growth media at 1g and 0g. Design guidelines aim to minimize gravitational force while maintaining a representative porous medium. Substrate physical properties (e.g., water retention) pose additional complications for diffusion coefficient determination. Results of this study will directly support substrate selection and management for International Space Station (ISS) plant growth experiments.