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Space Cultivation of Microorganisms


Preparation of an Experiment for Studying the Vortex Method of Suspension Cultivation of Biological Objects under Conditions of an Orbital Space Flight

Tech Area / Field

  • SAT-EXP/Extraterrestrial Exploration/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • SAT-MAS/Manned Space Station/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • BIO-MIB/Microbiology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-IND/Industrial Biotechnology/Biotechnology

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Owsiacki L

Leading Institute
State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Koltsovo

Supporting institutes

  • Russian Academy of Sciences / Institute of Biomedical Problems, Russia, Moscow


  • Commercial Space Technologies Ltd, UK, London\nEuropean Space Agency, The Netherlands, Noordwijk

Project summary

The study of the influence of space factors on living organisms and biomedical experiments in this field were started in 1957 when the second artificial satellite of Earth was launched. Then these researches were continued in the cycle of experiments on satellite spaceships in 1960-1961. These researches have shown an opportunity of flight of a man to space and have opened up the age of man-tended space missions. The “BION” program was the first program for complex researches of animal and vegetative organisms in the flights of specialized satellites – biosatellites in the interests of space biology, medicine and biotechnology.

At present, this field of space biology is developing in the frames of the flights of “Photon-M” space apparatuses. In particular, the influence of the weightlessness state on the genetic structures and gene expression was studied in “Photon-M” #2 space apparatus flight. “Photon-M” #3 space apparatus flight is planned on the basis of data obtained in the “Photon-M” #2 experiments. The “Bion-M” #1 space apparatus flight is being prepared at present in the frames of BioCosmos-1 Project. In particular, the “Plant-Bion” experiment is planned to study the influence of space flight factors on the growing and development of higher plants as well as to develop the technology of their cultivation under the weightlessness state conditions – the “Plant-Bion” experiment. Thus a considerable number of the programs are directed to the development of space biology.

The development of space biotechnology requires the solution of both fundamental and applied problems. The most important applied task is the development of methods for microorganism cultivation under space flight conditions. First of all, the development of this sphere is of practical value for improving the systems for life support and utilization of wastes of vital functions during space flights. In future, the solution of these tasks will open up the way to commercial use of biotechnology in space: to manufacture human proteins, cells and genes; to produce tissue-like structures for use in surgery; to provide cosmonauts with food during long flights in space and many other applications. Thus, the development of methods for microorganism cultivation under space flight conditions is an important and urgent practical task

Bioreactors for suspension cultivation of biological objects (cultures of cells of animals, plants, insects, bacteria, fungi and viruses) with a mixing device are the most mobile ones in control and maintenance the mixing and mass transfer with needed intensity. Bioreactors of this type are widely used in practice for production of enzymes, amino acids, antibiotics, medical preparations, etc. The developed “Earth” technologies of cultivation can’t be transferred directly to the space flight conditions. The improvement of the hydrodynamics of bioreactor with a mixing device by using vortex motion of a continuous medium can be one of possible technical solutions in the development of a bioreactor for suspension cultivation of biological objects in space.

The theoretical and experimental researches of impulse, heat and mass transfer processes in the vortex flows have been conducted with participation of the experts of FSRI SRC VB “Vector” for more than ten years. The “BIOK” bioreactor with vortex-gas mixing of culture medium is the practical result of the cycle of researches. The principle of mixing and aeration of culture medium by the vortex motion of aerating gas over the free surface of liquid is used in the “BIOK” bioreactor for the first time. Researches have shown that the advantages of such devices are their high efficiency, sparing (mild) conditions of the mixing of biological objects, optimal conditions of aeration and high productivity of the cultivation process even at the high viscosity of culture medium. It is possible to assert that the bioreactor with gas-vortex mixing of culture medium is the most suitable variant of the available prototypes for use under space conditions. This is also proved by its characteristics, simplicity of operation and low energy consumption. The novelty of “BIOK” bioreactor is protected by patents of Russia, USA and Japan and by six European patents. However, direct copying the “BIOK” bioreactor for employment in space experiments will not give a positive result. Fundamental changes in the bioreactor construction with conserving the gas-vortex method of mixing of culture medium are needed. A variant of bioreactor that is able to conserve the advantages of the vortex method of cultivation and to ensure its operation under space flight conditions was proposed at FSRI SRC VB “Vector”. The prototype of bioreactor is undergoing a series of tests. Patenting of the method and apparatus is being prepared on the basis of the test results.

The goal of works under the project is the preparation of an experiment for studying the suspension cultivation of biological objects under conditions of an orbital space flight. Cooperation of the two institutes and the use of unique scientific and practical experience of SRC RF Institute of Biomedical Problems of RAS in the field of preparation and carrying of space biomedical researches as well as the developments of FSSI SRC VB “Vector” in the vortex methods of cultivation of biological objects will allow us to prepare the experiment that will be used as a basis for high efficient space


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