Environmental Systems

Dedicated to creating the next generation of microgravity bio-agricultural products through system and service solutions that increase plant productivity with dramatic operational cost savings.

Science Payload & Bio Products

We are dedicated to creating the next generation of bio-agricultural products through system and service solutions that increase plant productivity in space with dramatic operational cost savings. Our unique capabilities stem from 20 years of research in environmental control and life support systems for NASA. Our systems are optimized for growth of plant-made pharmaceuticals, industrial products and high-yield crops through lighting, control systems, automation and growth services.

Applications include:

  • Accelerated research and development of plant-made products
  • Optimizing and validating growth and bio-manufacturing environmental conditions
  • Controlled manufacturing of protein-modified plants with environmental variables tailored specifically for high yield
  • Bio-secure transgenic crop development
  • Year-round local crops, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

LED Lighting Systems

Our systems represent the most advanced solid-state lighting systems currently available for biological research, plant growth, supplemental greenhouse and vehicle lighting. All systems offer modularity, with improved spectral flexibility, point source density and optical power delivery. With multiple “light engine” designs, lighting systems of virtually any size and required light output can be created.

The high-efficiency and low-energy consumption of LED lighting systems typically translate to a 60% reduction in energy costs. Other benefits of LED lighting over other existing systems (such as fluorescent and metal halide) include:

  • Orders of magnitude less degradation of light quantity and quality with aging
  • No ballasts, pressurized bulbs, mercury or other hazardous chemicals
  • Lightweight, small size
  • Lower radiant heat load
  • Lower power consumption
  • Longer life expectancy
  • No required maintenance or light bulb changes

Bio-Production Systems & Bio-Products

We are dedicated to creating the next generation of bio-agricultural products through system and service solutions that increase plant productivity on Earth and in space. Our unique capabilities stem from decades of research in environmental control in partnership with NASA and are optimized for growth of plant-made pharmaceuticals, industrial products and high-yield crop through lighting, control systems, automation and growth services. Both large and small-scale production systems can be customized for individual bio-products, including:

  • Solid-state lighting
  • Temperature and humidity control
  • Atmospheric composition control
  • Automated process monitoring and data acquisition
  • Growth production protocols
  • Energy monitoring, control and conservation
  • Nutrient delivery and waste processing
  • Biomass collection and separation
  • Energy monitoring, control and conservation

Plant-Made Proteins

We are currently optimizing the efficiency and quality of protein production from plants as it develops spider-like silk structural fibers from plant-made proteins. While working with many plant species and multiple means of plant modification, specific environmental conditions are varied to improve biomass and protein yields. Optimizing production drastically reduces the cost per gram of protein and has many potential applications, such as developing pharmaceutical proteins.

VEGGIE

An example of our Bio-Production System products is the vegetable production system (VEGGIE) developed for NASA. In 2015 VEGGIE enabled NASA astronauts to eat fully grown-in-space produce for the first time. The ability to grow plants in space is key in creating sustainable long-term missions and our work continues to push the boundaries of this technology. It also provides astronauts the opportunity to periodically enjoy various kinds of fresh lettuce and vegetables.

Currently Operating on the International Space Station:

  • Lettuce, Chinese cabbage and mizuna grown and consumed to date
  • Zinnia grown as ornamental plant
  • Several plant biology experiments conducted
  • Two VEGGIE units now on the space station

Features:

  • Operates on approximately 70 Watts
  • Accommodates varying size plants
  • Modular design allows ease of starting/harvesting plants
  • Exchanges air with the cabin, uses CO2 produced by the crew, returning O2
  • Minimizes power consumption by optimizing light delivered to plants

Astro Garden® System

Sierra Space is working on a larger and more advanced plant growth system, Astro Garden, developing a way to grow a larger volume of food while saving as much space, weight and power as possible.

Advanced Plant Habitat

Sierra Space is also involved in a cutting-edge, automated “space garden” called the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), currently on the International Space Station. Jointly designed by Sierra Space parent company, SNC, and NASA engineers, the APH will grow new crops and science experiments critical to space agriculture and bio production research.

The APH will provide the environmental conditions to grow plants in microgravity, test new technologies and conduct controlled science experiments, which are expected to be key in making agriculture and fresh food more prominent in extended space exploration. Information and technology from APH will also be used in other space biology experiments, where specific growing conditions are beneficial or required.

The new system is the next generation of biological systems, the largest of its kind, providing long-duration plant science capabilities. It’s self-contained and automated, which significantly reduces the required crew time to grow plants and ideally will lead to a more reliable and fruitful crop at harvest.

  • The APH closely controls and regulates parameters such as temperature, humidity, light levels, photoperiods, moisture provided to specimens, CO2 levels, ethylene levels and air flow.
  • The APH system uses red, blue, green and a broad spectrum of white LED lights.
  • Data gathered from 180 sensors within the habitat will be relayed back in-real time to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

Images from three cameras will be available for periodic photographs.


Human Support Systems & Instrumentation

Our life-sustaining systems, technologies, subsystems and components build on more than 20 years of experience and spaceflight heritage with closed human environments for space travel. We leverage our experience in flight system development, fluids in microgravity and life support development to maximize our customer’s return on investment.

Complete systems are available for air and water processing, environment and thermal management, waste management, environmental control, cabin instrumentation and science or payload systems. We also offer vacuum and space environment testing services, including specialized testing to determine component and system impacts resulting from exposure to lunar dust.


Applications

Our focus on reliability and safety has placed us in a position to capture opportunities from space agencies and the rapidly growing commercial space markets for:

  • Suborbital flight
  • Low-Earth orbit
  • Long duration exploration
  • International Space Station
  • Lunar lander and surface operations
  • Commercial Orbital Transportation Services

Many human support system products also have potential terrestrial applications in areas such as waste recycling and water treatment. They can also be applied to plant and animal science systems, ground-based air and water systems, naval submarine environments and plant-based controlled environments.


Testing

We offer commercial in-house testing capabilities to validate and verify operation of systems, subsystems and components. The test capabilities include vibration, acoustic, altitude and vacuum, thermal cycling, humidity cycling, performance, shock, lunar dust exposure and lifetime testing. Other capabilities supporting testing include precision gas mixing capabilities and gas chromatography mass spectrometry.