P-MASS AND P-GBA: TWO NEW HARDWARE DEVELOPMENTS FOR GROWING PLANTS IN SPACE 941545
Plant growth, and especially plant performance experiments in microgravity are limited by the currently available plant growth facilities (low light levels, inadequate nutrient delivery and atmosphere conditioning systems, insufficient science instrumentation, infrequent flight opportunities). In addition, mission durations of 10 to 14 days aboard the NSTS Space Shuttle allow for only brief periods of microgravity exposure with respect to the life cycle of a plant. Based on seed germination experiments (5 missions from 1992 - 1994), using the Generic BioProcessing Apparatus hardware (GBA), two new payloads have been designed specifically for plant growth. These payloads provide new opportunities for plant gravitational and space biology research and emphasize the investigation of plant performance (photosynthesis, biomass accumulation) in microgravity. The Plant-Module for Autonomous Space Support (P-MASS) was designed to utilize microgravity exposure times in excess of 30 days on the first flight of the recoverable COMET satellite (Commercial Experiment Transporter). The Plant-Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (P-GBA), is designed for the NSTS Space Shuttle middeck and the SPACEHAB environment. The P-GBA is an evolution from the GBA hardware (containment structure modified for double-middeck locker size to increase available volume and power for plant growth) and P-MASS (plant chamber and instrumentation). The available light levels of both payloads more than double currently available capabilities.