ESA/ESTEC - Life & Physical Sciences Instrumentation and Life Support Laboratory Facilities

ESA’s LIS Laboratory Facilities

Activities at the Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation, and Life Support (LIS) laboratory facilities located at ESTEC, the ESA technical centre in the Netherlands, are focused on research and technology development associated with the impact of space environment on biological and physical systems, including advanced life support concepts. That includes, as well the impact of hypergravity, along with the reduced gravity research.

LIS Laboratory: Background and Experience

Since 2007, the LIS laboratory facilities have provided a wide portfolio of services to support projects in the fields of life and physical sciences, life support, environmental control and other space exploration related activities (e.g. life and physical sciences experiments and payloads to be flown on different types of platforms or for planetary exploration missions, development of life support systems). But these facilities are more than just a place to carry out tests or rehearse space missions: they are indeed associated to a competent team able to provide support to flight projects (e.g. ATV disinfection and microbiological control campaigns, water quality and water loading operations, FOTON M3 mission, experiment sequence tests for payloads to be flown on ISS experiment facilities), implementation of technology development activities as well as their terrestrial applications.

Main characteristics of the facilities

One of the Life Support (LIS) laboratory rooms

The laboratory facilities are able to support biological, physical and life support projects, environmental control, cleanliness, disinfection and sterilisation procedures as well as gravity simulation experiments. The whole facilities are composed of four main laboratories, namely:

  • Exploration and Life Support Laboratory
  • Life and Physical Sciences Laboratory (Biosafety Level 2)
  • ISO class 6 cleanroom (class 1 planned) Laboratory
  • Gravity Simulation Laboratory.

Main Laboratory Equipments

ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge

The 720 m2 Laboratory facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to prepare and support flight and ground-based research and experiments. They have at their disposal a large variety of equipment. This includes analytical instrumentation for biotechnologies, microbiology (e.g. inverted and non-inverted microscopes, Vitek 2 compact, Diversilab) and water chemistry (e.g. ICP, HPLC, GC-MS), analytical instrumentation (HPLC-MS), a large volume dry-heat steriliser (class 5) as well as all conventional laboratory items (such as glassware, -18 and -80 °C freezers) and consumables.

Main Achievements of the LIS facilities

RPM and incubator

Particular emphasis is made of the Gravity Simulation Laboratory which hosts a small random position machine for microgravity simulation and a large diameter (8m) centrifuge equipped with four arms carrying up to six gondolas, able to accommodate payloads up to 80kg each. The maximum possible acceleration is 20g (with four gondolas), which can be maintained for six months or longer if required.

Main Achievements of the LIS facilities

Experiment integration into Foton M3

The first main use of the LIS laboratory facilities took place in 2007, and consisted of supporting science verification and mission simulation testing as well as late access flight preparation for the Foton M3 mission. During this major event the Laboratory demonstrated its capabilities to adapt to periods of peak activities. Some 35 life and physical science experiments had to be prepared and tested. The Laboratory accommodated more than 80 people, including scientists and technicians, giving them access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment along with ESA in-house expertise.

How to use the LIS Laboratory Services?

ATV2 Johannes Kepler after 1st disinfection

Since then the LIS Laboratory facilities have contributed to other flight projects. For instance, they were involved in the development and validation of disinfection procedures which were successfully applied during ATV launch campaigns (Jules Verne in 2007-2008 and Johannes Kepler in 2010-2011). The laboratory facilities are also supporting some activities of the MELiSSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative), which aims at, developing the technology required for a regenerative life support system to be used during future long term manned space missions.

How to use the LIS Laboratory Services?

Although tasks requested for ESA projects are generally given priority, the Life & Physical Sciences and Life Support laboratory does provide services for projects from other European space programmes and companies, including SMEs, which need to use such facilities.

Services offered by the Laboratory Facilities and the associated team include:

  • Assessment and verification of experimental instrument design concepts and measurements principles in support of both projects and technology R&D
  • Verification of the feasibility of new ideas through rapid breadboarding
  • Cleaning, bioburden detection, disinfection and sterilisation activities for flight projects
  • Provision of support to scientific experiments
  • Performance of science verification and flight sequence tests
  • Preparation of biological samples for flight and ground-based experiments
  • Long-term functional testing of flight facility ground reference models
  • Analysis of payload malfunctions or hardware failures
  • Maintaining a pool of expertise among agency staff and the training of young graduate trainees, stagiaires and research fellows.

A candidate customer can request a quotation to perform a test by contacting the laboratory manager

For questions or further detailed information please contact:

Robert Lindner
Head of Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation and Life Support Section
European Space Agency
European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)
Keplerlaan 1 - Postbus 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
The Netherlands

Tel. +31 71 56 54 678

Last update: 26 August 2014

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