Validation of the Rob-1 experiment at Biotesc
The teams of UNamur, Kayser Italia and ESA met in September 2019 at Biotesc in Lucern (Switzerland) to validate the Rob-1 experiment of rotifers. This was the first opportunity to meet all together, share knowledge and present the Adineta vaga rotifer to all the teams involved in the RISE project. Before the validation experiment at Biotesc, Lucie Bruneau and Boris Hespeels (UNamur team) selected the best Adineta vaga cultures from their laboratory within the research group of Prof. Karine Van Doninck at UNamur.
The rotifer cultures were then transferred to Biotesc into PLT bags designed by Kayser Italia to be used for the space flight simulation experiment. Inside these PLT bags enabling oxygen transfer, rotifers are kept hydrated and can feed, move and reproduce. The filled PLT bags were then placed in the Rob-1 hardware, also designed by Kayser Italia, which was then placed in the ESA Kubik incubator going to the ISS. The entire simulation experiment of Rob-1 was validated for the launch to the ISS planned in December 2019 from Kennedy Space Center.
The launch to ISS from Kennedy Space Center (Florida)
On 18th of November 2019, Lucie Bruneau (technician, UNamur) and Boris Hespeels (project manager ESA project, UNamur) were the first scientists to leave for Cape Canaveral in Florida (USA). The rotifer cultures Adineta vaga were shipped a few days before. They all met in their new laboratory at Kennedy Space Center (KSC, Florida). The rotifer cultures were checked and maintained daily for the preparation of Rob-1.
Richard Coos (Engineer at UNamur), Karine Van Doninck (Full Professor , UNamur) and the two artists, Angelo Vermeulen and Marc Guillaume, joined the team at KSC on November 29th, 2019. The first critical day is December 2nd, 2019: duo Richard and Lucie, and second duo Boris and Karine, prepared all the PLT bags with the Adineta vaga individuals while artist Angelo Vermeulen added the SEADS artwork to the Rob-1 experiment. In the meantime, artist Marc Guillaume was documenting this unique day.
The assembly of the PLT bags with Adineta vaga individuals in the Rob-1 modules was done by Kayser Italia at KSC the same day, December 2nd. The entire preparation of Rob-1 went smooth and the Rob-1 modules with the artwork were stored in the cold storage at 10°C till the launch. The experiments left KSC on December 3rd with the truck to be placed on the Dragon capsule of the Falcon 9 rocket.
On the 5th of December 2019, the Rob-1 experiment with Adineta vaga left earth on board of Falcon 9 Space X-19 at 12.28 pm EST. The Dragon capsule of Falcon 9 containing all the experiments docked with the ISS on the 8th of December 2019 around 4am EST. Astronaut Luca Parmitano transferred the Rob-1 experiment into the KUBIK on ISS. Rotifers were maintained hydrated at 15°C for 5 days before being frozen at -80°C and returned to the laboratory at UNamur.
Here is a short video of our research stay at NASA Kennedy Space Center (USA) the first week of December 2019. Discover the interaction between scientists, engineers and artists to prepare the Rob1 experiment for the launch of bdelloid rotifers to ISS with the SpaceX Falcon 9 (launch on December 5th 2019). This is a very strong collaboration on the site between ESA, Kayser Italia, Scientists from LEGE and LARN laboratories UNamur, artist from SEADS and photographer Marc Guillaume.