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Crop Cultivation in EMCS


The objective of this ESA Prodex proposal is to explore the technical possibilities to integrate larger Experimental Containers for crop cultivation in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) and a closed Water and Nutrient Management (WNM) system. The EMCS has been operational on the International Space Station (ISS) since 2006 and has exchangeable rotors. Several parts of the rotor system are also ORU`s, e.g. the Rotor based life support system (RBLSS) and water reservoirs. Higher plants are foreseen to be included in future manned space exploration missions. New scientific knowledge of transport of water and solutes, as well as, technology demonstration of a closed loop water and nutrient management system under fractional gravity is a prerequisite for its realization.

The work will be based on the work and results in the on-going TIME SCALE project (EU Horizon-2020 funded project). As part of this project a crop cultivation system breadboard concept has been developed within the boundary conditions of the EMCS rotor volume. The proposed project can take advantage of the opportunity presented in the EU work program 2016/2017. In this program EU offers to finance ESA Engineering support to selected projects for flight development and implementation on ISS. Parallel ESA activities are required at an early stage take advantage of this opportunity and to get a faster to a flight development and implementation of an upgrade of the EMCS for Crop Cultivation. In this proposed work it is regarded as important to bring in the expertise and experience of EMCS Payload Developers and EMCS Payload Engineer Manager at an early stage of the development. 

The focus crop cultivation and closed water and nutrient management system is of high importance for future space exploration missions. This research and development topic is however also a key element for sustainable food production on Earth. Closed loop water and nutrient require scientific knowledge on the dynamics in closed loops, as well as, robust and reliable sensor technology to monitor and control the closed systems. Both elements are included in the crop cultivation system development aiming to give a considerable impact on food production both in Space and on Earth.

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