BX34 – SpiCy (Stratospheric investigation of combinatory cyanobacterial biofilms)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

Launch Date: October 2024

SpiCy is a student-led mission to investigate the behavior of combinatory cyanobacterial biofilms under increased ionizing and non-ionizing radiation levels in the stratosphere. This aims to propose new alternatives to oxygen suppliance during space travel missions.
Oxygen supply in space is commonly achieved through electrolysis. To ensure sufficient oxygen for a crewed flight the spacecraft is supplied with fresh water from earth. With the exploration of outer space this steady terrestrial supply may become increasingly difficult and energy-demanding. Thus, new ways of oxygen production in space must be explored.
Cyanobacteria are the oldest known photosynthetic organisms on earth with ancestors of today´s cyanobacterial strands being thought to be responsible for the oxygenation of our atmosphere. They form biofilms which are highly resilient to abiotic stresses, especially in combination with heterotrophic bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas thaiwanensis. With SpiCy we will observe the survivability and oxygen production rate of the promising cyanobacterial strands Tolipothrix sp. PC 7712, Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and Synechococcus elongatus UTEX 2973 cultivated in combinatory biofilms together with the named heterotrophic bacteria in different ratios. The single best candidate is sent to the stratosphere via BEXUS to observe those same parameters under the stress factor of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation levels similar to those on the surface of Mars. Temperature, pressure and pH are controlled variables.
Subsequent RNA sequencing, biomass analysis and EPS matrix analysis in comparison to the
ground-exposed samples will give us an insight into the main pathways being affected.

BX34 – STORMDUST (Science of TOxin migRation and Microbiology in DifficUlt STratospheric conditions)

Gdańsk University of Technology, Poland

Launch Date: October 2024

The Stratosphere is a unique and an extreme environment, that researchers have limited access to. This requires the use of solutions such as stratospheric balloons. To reach what is inaccessible for aircrafts and satellites, we created STORMDUST.
Within the lower and middle stratosphere, we anticipate the presence of various chemical componds. Due to global trends such as global warming and UV radiation the chemical composition of the stratosphere is changing, it is essential that we undertake studies in areas like biodiversity and the migration of volatile chemical compounds, including potential toxins. Our aim is to create a chemical map of the stratosphere.
We want to achieve this with a sampling system which can be divided into two separate subsystems: sensors and SPE columns, each guided by an onboard computer. Sensors clusters are responsible for examining and gathering data about specific chemical compounds detected during the flight. Meanwhile, SPE columns are instrumental in obtaining physical samples of chemical and biological compounds on determined altitudes.
Acquired research material from SPE columns will be analyzed in laboratories via two methodologies. Membranes in the columns will be separated and imprinted on culture medium to grow microorganisms, while the absorbent material will be subjected to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The results will be compared with the sensor data for complete analysis to potentially answer the question “Do the stratospheric microorganisms identified adjust to chemical composition changes in the stratosphere?”.

BX32 – HERMES (Habited Exoplanet Research Measured by Eminence Stokes)

Haute École Du Paysage, D’ingénierie Et D’architecture De Genève

Launch Date: 24th September 2023

Did you know that the polarization proprieties of light can be used to detect life? Recent research has shown that it is possible. Polarization is a property of light inaccessible to the naked eye but rich in information. Some of this information are the four Stokes parameters, which can be obtained when a picture is decomposed by a polarized camera. With the four Stokes parameters, biological presence can be determined. The experience is part of a bigger scientific program whose objective is detecting life on exoplanets by analysing Stokes parameters. The experiment is operational in a laboratory however, it needs a perfect environment. This is why we don’t expect to be able to detect life directly. We are going to analyse how the parameters such as clouds, forests, lakes, snow, humidity, aerosols, particles, temperature, distance to surface, are going to affect the results on the polarization. These effects will help us understand in which conditions future measures can be done. Space missions often encounter unexpected conditions, to know how to adapt to them plays a big part in the success of the mission. To execute our experiment, we are going to design a box composed of two polarized cameras. The two cameras will be pointing at the Earth to be able to take pictures of its surface. The data will be postprocessed in order to see the different parameters affecting the polarization of the visible light. After the postprocessing, our results will be transferred to a group of scientists studying light polarization. In this way, our project is going to be helpful for the research of exoplanetary life detection.

BX30 – BoB (BAMMsat-on-BEXUS)

Cranfield University and the University of Exeter, United-Kingdom

Launch Date: 30th September 2021

Our experiment aims at providing a thermally controlled and pressurised environment on-board the BAMMsat payload relevant to maintaining viable biological samples in an extreme operational environment such as the Earth’s stratosphere. This is a technology demonstration that consists in operating the BAMMsat payload in a spaceflight representative context as well as demonstrating the key BAMMsat ability to provide a controlled environment in an extreme operational environment. The mission is to note the behaviour of 18 independent biological sub-samples of adult C. elegans nematode worms during the stratospheric balloon flight. We anticipate that the nematode worms will be either mobile or motile or both at certain stages of the experiment. The samples will be observed during the pre-flight and post-flight stages as well during the flight. The results of the experiment will demonstrate the feasibility of a future mission that will obtain data using C. elegans nematode worms as well as, but not limited to, the effects of microgravity, radiation and a dynamic environment in space. We hope that the experiment will lead to an increase in the technology readiness level (TRL) of the BAMMsat payload and further the research in space biology and human spaceflight.

BoB Student Experiment Document

BX30 – Stardust

Gdańsk University of Technology, Poland

Launch Date: 30th September 2021

The stratospheric microbiome has been investigated several times using the methods of classical microbiology. In this experiment, we are going to combine them with some novel approaches including whole-metagenome amplification and NGS sequencing. The analysis of metagenome will help to determine the content of various species of bacteria in the sample collected in the stratosphere. Diversification of methods will help to distinguish cultureable microorganisms from non-cultureable ones. The experiment supplies the information about the possibilities of spreading of bacteria around the world which is important from the point of view of epidemiological threats and environmental biodiversity. It also may provide the scientists with knowledge about the mechanisms of survivability of microorganisms in stratospheric conditions.

In the stratosphere, we expect to find gram-positive bacteria with the ability to survive high doses of UV and cosmic radiation as well as cold, drought or low pressure (incl. low partial pressure of oxygen). After setting up the pure cultures of stratospheric microorganisms, they shall be exposed to different but controlled values of these parameters.

The microorganisms shall be collected in the stratosphere by a sampling system equipped with six filters. Two filters shall be placed between ever-closed valves as the control filters. Biological material shall be collected in the remaining four filters of which one shall be used for metagenome isolation. Three of them shall provide the microorganisms for setting up cultures on agar media. One of the control filters shall be treated like the one for metagenome isolation and the second one shall be treated similar to the ones used for setting up the cultures. The stratospheric microbiome shall be compared to the microbiome of the air collected from the place of the balloon’s start.

STARDUST Student Experiment Document

BX27 – WHB (Die Wirkung der Höhenlage auf Bakteriensporen)

FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences (FH Aachen), Germany

Launch Date: 18 October 2018

The biosphere and ecology of the stratosphere is a generally unexplored and a little understood topic in Biology. There is currently minimal information regarding the diversity of the microbial fauna that resides in the stratosphere. The limited number of previous studies have sampled the stratospheric biosphere at lower latitudes and specific altitudes. There has been only one study near the arctic circle. The environment of the stratosphere at the far northern latitudes is unique relative to rest of the stratosphere. The temperatures are warmer, ionising radiation is higher, and UV radiation is higher. In this experiment we will build a safe, sturdy, and clean microbial collection device to sample the microbial life forms at several altitudes in the arctic stratosphere. We will then analyze our findings using an electron microscope and compare our results with previous studies. The key impact of this research is to expand the encyclopia of life and to better understand a virtually unknown environment.

RX25 – FORAREX (FORAminifera Rocket EXperiment)

Universität Bremen, Germany

Launch Date: 11 March 2019

The FORAREX project focuses on marine unicellular organisms belonging to the group of Foraminifera. This short-term experiment is important since its influence of microgravity on these protists has not yet been part of research.

On the REXUS mission reaction of foraminifera will be tested due to physical stress during rocket launch, e.g., vibration and acceleration. During a later flight stage when microgravity sets in, its influence on behaviour of foraminifera will be the focus of investigation. Changes could be cell shape, motility and cell migration (pseudopodia). In addition, life-support system cultivating foraminifera will likewise tested for general mission approval.

Gained insights through the FORAREX project are basis for a future long-term experiment on board the International Space Station (ISS). There, influence of microgravity on foraminifera behaviour and its test growth will be under investigation.

Its calcifying shell is already of great interest for research on biomineralisation. Applications are found in very different areas of industry, e.g., medical engineering, pharmaceutical biotechnology, bionic solutions as well as in the field of architectural design. New insights of the long-term experiment could expand range of applications significantly.

RX23 – VIPER (Vaporizing Ice Penetration Experiment on a Rocket)

FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences (FH Aachen), Germany

Launch Date: 4 March 2019

For hundreds of years, anstronoms are trying to answer the question about the existence of extraterrestrial life. By now, they weren’t successful. But there are chances to find marks of extraterrestrial life in our own solar system. One of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, mostly consists out of ice. Under its icy surface, scientists presume an ocean. In there, we probably can find evidence for life. But how can we reach this ocean? Obviously, it’s no problem to reach Enceladus, as a couple of missions proof. Cassini for example flew to saturn and separated Huygens, which landed on Titan on 14.01.2005. But when we are there, how can we get through the ice? Of course, we need to melt our way through it. So far, there haven’t been any experiments dealing with melting through ice in vacuum and under microgravity conditions. As FH Aachen already has a working icemole (a robot that can melt through the ice), we want to add some space related knowledge that could lead into a future mission to the ocean of Enceladus. Therefore, we will design a box that contains 3 containers (50×50 mm) filled with ice. Three probes will be heated up and pressed on the ice with a constant force. The ice containers will be cooled to simulate an endless ice surface. The ice temperature will be measured, as well as the force acting on the probes and the melting depth.

RX20 – CEMIOS (Electrophysiological study investigating cellular effects of weightlessness induced oocyte samples)

Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland

Launch Date: 15 March 2016

Prolonged exposure to microgravity has several severe effects on physiology. Muscle wasting (atrophy) and loss in bone density are among the well-known adaptation processes observed in human space flight. Extensive research demonstrated that cells have multiple mechanisms to detect external mechanical forces. However, the exact mechanism by means of which cells can detect gravity are still unknown. Previous studies have shown, that mechanosensitive ion channels could be among the key players.

In this project, the effect of microgravity on a mechanosensitive ion channel shall be studied aboard a sounding rocket. The ion channel of interest will be overexpressed in 6 frog eggs (oocytes) from the Xenopus Leavis.

In electrophysiological measurements, the voltage dependent ion current across an electrically isolated patch of the oocyte’s cell membrane shall be determined under microgravity conditions. Ions will not only flow through the channels of interest, creating an undesired background signal. By applying drugs specifically blocking the channel of interest, the background signal can be determined. Such electrophysiological measurements have not been done before aboard a sounding rocket. Therefore, this experiment shall also demonstrate the feasibility of such experiments.

CEMIOS Conference Paper

BX16 – Daemon (Continuous monitoring of the DNA damage due to solar radiation)

Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary

Launch Date: 8 October 2013

Solar light, specifically the ultraviolet component of the solar spectrum is an essential environmental factor for life. Solar radiation can enhance or damage the living systems. The main target for the UV radiation is the nucleic acid, important component of the living systems. The UV damage of DNA can model the stochastic damage of the living cells. The experiment will continuously monitor the variation of the damaging effect with altitude from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere, i.e. from the ozone shielded state of the living systems to the decreased ozone concentration state. The experiment will follow the development of the DNA damage by optical/spectroscopic methods. The experiment can provide valuable extension to the results of BioDos. The measurement methods and the results of the two projects can contribute to future satellite missions and allows more complete understanding of the biological risk and the space safety.

Daemon Final SED

BX16 – FLASH (Fluid LAb in the StratopsHere)

Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg, Germany; Julian-Maximilians-University of Würzburg, Germany; Max Delbrueck Centrum, Berlin, Germany

Launch Date: 8 October 2013

FLASH is a project that aims to transport living human cells into higher parts of our atmosphere to learn about the effects of cosmic radiation on the 3D nanostructure of their genome. In the subsequent laboratory analysis nanoscopy  will be used which is a new approach for the sensitive detection and analysis of irradiation effects on organisms. The motivation for this undertaking is the fact that the effects of low dose radiation, and especially of complex compound radiation such as of cosmic origin, are still a topic of current research as well as of pivotal significance for human space flight and, in the long run, cancer research. Owing to its complexity, cosmic radiation is extremely difficult to replicate on the ground. Thus, the FLASH project is taking part in the BEXUS program of the DLR and the SNSB to use a balloon to get better access to cosmic radiation over several hours.

BX15 – BioDos (Continuous measurement of the change of UV radiation in dependence of altitude – Testing new method of measuring effects of UV radiation on biological systems)

Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary

Launch Date: 25 September 2012

Ultraviolet radiation is the driving force for the majority of living systems on Earth. It is therefore important to study and understand the role of UV photons in the evolution of early life on Earth, and the possibility of interplanetary transport (Panspermia). Both processes can be enhanced or hindered by UV photons. To investigate these effects, the Semmelweis University Research Group for Biophysics (RGB) have developed DNA based biological UV dosimeters, to assess the biological hazards of UV radiation. The biological UV detectors can be considered as models of living systems, whilst the effects of UV radiation can be measured by observing the spectroscopic changes in optical density of the samples. The BioDos experiment will serve as a pilot experiment for later satellite-based missions, since the high altitude environment of the BEXUS platform is a good representation of near space conditions, in terms of UV radiation.

BioDOS Conference Paper