On 5 December 2018 at 19:16 CET, ISU’s Hydra-1 experiment was launched from Florida onboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for delivery to the International Space Station (ISS). Hydra-1 is a plant synthetic biology experiment.
It brings together personnel at ISU, the Universities of California, Berkeley and Utah, CNRS-Strasbourg and the NASA Ames Research Centre.
Hydra-1 features two main parts, a plant-growth chamber and a control unit. Seeds travel to space inside the plant-growth chamber. Once on orbit, Hydra-1 will be installed in the Space Applications Services (SAS) ICE-Cubes Facility (ICF) in the European Space Agency (ESA) Columbus module where it will join two other ISU Hydra payloads launched last June.
The seeds will be hydrated using a water supply in the payload. The effect of the water plus the illumination from LEDs causes the germination of the seeds and their growth into plants. One set of plants prepared by UC Berkeley and University of Utah researchers then will change color to indicate a specific protein is being produced. This is observed in real time by a camera in the payload. After flight, the plant DNA is sequenced, and the molecules made by the plants are examined to better understand plant metabolism.
Once it has arrived at the ISS, been installed by ESA astronauts and been activated by ICE-Cubes, the ISU team will test and commission it. Once commissioned, the seeds will be wetted and monitored for a minimum of 14 days growth period during which the plants will be imaged regularly. At the end of the growth period the experiment will be removed from the ICF facility and stowed ready for return with the SpaceX CRS-16 mission in January 2019.
After landing and recovery, the experiment will be returned to ISU in February. The remains of the plants will be removed and undergo DNA analysis by the team of CNRS researchers affiliated with the University of Strasbourg.
Prof. Chris Welch, ISU Hydra project coordinator, said:
“All of the project team are very pleased to launch Hydra-1 to the ISS with ICE-Cubes and are looking forward to the high-quality science that its innovative design and operations can provide. Hydra-1 has been designed not just for this mission but to have elements applicable to lunar surface operations. We hope that this will not be its only trip to space.”
Photo 1: ISU, Hydra-1 Integration Team – Yadvender Dhillon MSS15 MSS16B & James Bevington MSS15
Photo 2: ISU, Hydra-1 pre-integration