The Van Trump Report

First Commercial Space Greenhouse Could Launch Next Year

Aerospace manufacturer “Redwire” is gearing up to launch the first-ever commercially owned and operated spaceflight-qualified plant growth platform capable of growing plants from seed to maturity in space. In other words, it is a giant space greenhouse, which Redwire plans install on the International Space Station (ISS) sometime in 2023. The project, funded by an award from the ISS National Lab, will not only expand humanity’s abilities to grow full crops in space but also provide critical insights for crop scientists back here on Earth.

Industrial hemp will be Redwire’s first crop which will be grown for Dewey Scientific, an agtech company that focuses on hemp and cannabis research. During a 60-day experiment, it will grow the hemp and carry out a gene expression study that they hope will advance biomedical and biofuel research. Redwire expects the experiment will also glean the first of many insights that will support future space exploration missions.

Dave Reed, Redwire’s Greenhouse project manager, explains that growing full crops in space will be critical to future space exploration missions as plants provide not just food, but also oxygen and water reclamation. NASA says crop production in space is critical for carrying out long-term space exploration, including the Artemis Program, which seeks to eventually establish a human colony on the Moon. The space agency says transporting food from Earth to the Moon would very quickly become prohibitively expensive. ¬†

Redwire comes to this project with a lot of experience in the field already. Some of the company’s existing plant growth technology is currently being utilized on the ISS. That includes what’s called the Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) developed in partnership with Tupperware Brands and currently operated by Redwire on the ISS. ¬†Besides PONDS, Redwire has managed plant investigations in the NASA-owned Advanced Plant Habitat since 2018.

Redwire will use the first Greenhouse mission to work out any hiccups in the system. Part of the goal for the in-space demo is to allow Redwire to further advance its technologies and eventually make available larger, scalable versions of the Greenhouse that can be flown for customers with varying crop-growing requirements or alternate plant support systems. (Sources: Hortidaily, SpaceCafe, Fast Company)

NASA’s Matt Romeyn in the Veggie Lab of the Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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