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In Situ Sample Preparation and Analysis for Biological and Physical Sciences in a Microgravity Environment

Description:

Scope Title:

Sample Preparation

Scope Description:

This subtopic seeks proposals that advance NASA's objective of leveraging the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to maintain and strengthen the U.S. leadership in the area of biological and physical science research that is critical to our economic prosperity amid increasing global competition. Proposals should describe technologies capable of safely handling soft matter and/or biological materials in the microgravity environment for sample preparation and post-experiment analyses. Samples may consist of aqueous and polymer solutions that have non-Newtonian flow characteristics, volatile liquids, and particles over a wide range of sizes and properties. Preparation activities will include the ability to accurately measure and dispense reactants; rehydrate dry/lyophilized samples and specimens; mix; transfer; remove trapped bubbles; dry, desiccate, and seal samples; empty and cleanse containers.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 6

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensors and Instruments
  • Level 2 08.3 In-Situ Instruments/Sensor

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware

Desired Deliverables Description:

For Phase I, as a minimum, development and test of a bench-top prototype and a written report detailing evidence of demonstrated prototype technology in the laboratory or in a relevant environment and stating the future path toward hardware demonstration in orbit. A preliminary assessment of the technology business case (cost and revenue forecast, market size, potential customers, etc.) is also required.

Desired deliverables at the end of Phase II would be a preliminary design and concept of operations, development and test of an engineering development unit in a relevant environment (ground or space), and a report containing detailed science requirements, results of testing, and an updated business case analysis and/or application plan. Concepts that can achieve flight demonstration on a suborbital flight or on the ISS during Phase II are especially valuable.

 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Experimental samples traditionally have been prepared in ground-based laboratories and launched to the ISS where experiments are conducted. Limited analyses of test samples can be conducted aboard the ISS, but most experiments require preserving, storing, and returning the samples to Earth, where detailed analyses are conducted. The ability to safely prepare, manipulate, and analyze samples in crew environment is severely limited by handling fluids such that in a contained manner on-orbit is required to achieve the pace of ground-based samples. 

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This subtopic is in direct support of NASA’s recent policy to enable commercial and marketing activities to take place aboard the ISS. The ISS capabilities will be used to further stimulate the demand for commercial product development and strengthen U.S. leadership in in-space manufacturing and production.

References:

  • Chaikin, Paul, Noel Clark, and Sidney Nagel: Grand Challenges in Soft Matter Science: Prospects for Microgravity Research, No. E-19904, 2021.
  • Burton, Aaron S., Sarah E. Stahl, Kristen K. John, Miten Jain, Sissel Juul, Daniel J. Turner, Eoghan D. Harrington et al.: "Off earth identification of bacterial populations using 16S rDNA nanopore sequencing," Genes, 11, 1, 2020, p. 76.
  • Castro-Wallace, Sarah L., Charles Y. Chiu, Kristen K. John, Sarah E. Stahl, Kathleen H. Rubins, Alexa BR McIntyre, Jason P. Dworkin et al.: "Nanopore DNA sequencing and genome assembly on the International Space Station," Scientific Reports, 7, 1, 2017, pp. 1-12.
  • Schneider, Walter, Jay Perry, James Broyan, Ariel Macatangay, Melissa McKinley, Caitlin Meyer, Andrew Owens, Nikzad Toomarian, and Robyn Gatens: "NASA Environmental Control and Life Support Technology Development and Maturation for Exploration: 2019 to 2020 Overview," 2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems, 2020.

 

Scope Title:

Sample Analysis

Scope Description:

This subtopic seeks proposals that advance NASA's objective of leveraging the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to maintain and strengthen the U.S. leadership in the area of biological and physical science research that is critical to our economic prosperity amid increasing global competition. Proposals will be accepted for compact devices for measuring and transmitting data regarding cells, proteins, and metabolites in various specimen types, including blood, saliva, urine, and other body fluids.  Exhaled breath (with an abundance of volatile molecules) may be especially attractive because it can be obtained from animals non-invasively and may hold important clues about mammalian physiology.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 6

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensors and Instruments
  • Level 2 08.3 In-Situ Instruments/Sensor

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype

Desired Deliverables Description:

For Phase I, as a minimum, development and test of a bench-top prototype and a written report detailing evidence of demonstrated prototype technology in the laboratory or in a relevant environment and stating the future path toward hardware demonstration in orbit. A preliminary assessment of the technology business case (cost and revenue forecast, market size, potential customers, etc.) is also required.

Desired deliverables at the end of Phase II would be a preliminary design and concept of operations, development and test of an engineering development unit in a relevant environment (ground or space), and a report containing detailed science requirements, results of testing, and an updated business case analysis and/or application plan. Concepts that can achieve flight demonstration on a suborbital flight or on the International Space Station (ISS) during Phase II are especially valuable.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Currently, most samples require preserving, storing, and returning the samples to Earth where detailed analyses are conducted. Not only does the process of returning the samples to Earth delay analysis and interpretation of the results, it adds risk that the samples may be compromised in some manner by the process.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This subtopic is in direct support of NASA’s recent policy to enable commercial and marketing activities to take place aboard the ISS. The ISS capabilities will be used to further stimulate the demand for commercial products development and strengthen U.S. leadership in in-space manufacturing and production.

References:

  • Burton, Aaron S., Sarah E. Stahl, Kristen K. John, Miten Jain, Sissel Juul, Daniel J. Turner, Eoghan D. Harrington et al. "Off earth identification of bacterial populations using 16S rDNA nanopore sequencing," Genes, 11, 1, 2020, p. 76.
  • Castro-Wallace, Sarah L., Charles Y. Chiu, Kristen K. John, Sarah E. Stahl, Kathleen H. Rubins, Alexa BR McIntyre, Jason P. Dworkin et al: "Nanopore DNA sequencing and genome assembly on the International Space Station." Scientific Reports, 7, 1, 2017, pp. 1-12.
  • Schneider, Walter, Jay Perry, James Broyan, Ariel Macatangay, Melissa McKinley, Caitlin Meyer, Andrew Owens, Nikzad Toomarian, and Robyn Gatens: "NASA Environmental Control and Life Support Technology Development and Maturation for Exploration: 2019 to 2020 Overview," 2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems, 2020.

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