Project Name: KICCAM

Customer: UKRI - Science & Technology Facilities Council – In collaboration with the University of Nottingham

Objective: Breadboard a COTS-based camera system to integrate with a multi-well bioreactor within a 1U space grade standard container


With the advent of microsatellites, sub-orbital vehicles and the opening of the International Space Station (ISS) to commercial exploitation, as well as the proliferation of commercial launch systems, the microgravity environment is becoming increasingly accessible to perform experiments relevant to biology, medicine or biochemistry. Kayser leads the development of bioincubators for space applications: hand sized laboratories equipped with electronics and mechanical parts that execute experimental protocols automatically, allowing for the growth, treatment and fixation of biological specimens cultured in microgravity. These devices are usually custom designed to fulfil the specific scientific protocols of a single experiment.

Through the Bioreactor Express initiative with ESA, Kayser currently provides the option of deploying science payloads on the ISS on a commercial basis, with particular access to the KUBIK incubator facility. Going forward, Kayser has been appointed a sub-aggregator for payloads to fly in the forthcoming Space Rider platform.

While it is routine to return life samples to Earth after microgravity exposure for analysis, this is not possible for experiments carried out in cubesats, hence the interest in developing sensors that can perform in-situ analysis. Even for sample return experiments, there would be a significative advantage if experiment monitoring could be performed and decisions made from the ground about changes to the experiments’ scientific protocol based on near real time observations.

The KIC-Magnum is a standard container developed by Kayser used to house life science payloads in the KUBIK and will be the basis of future Space Rider experiments. Its 1U size makes it also ideal for the deployment of experiments in cubesats. The objective of this Proof-of-Concept is to develop a cheap camera system based on COTS that could be integrated within the KIC-Magnum container and used to monitor the development of life samples growing in multiple culture cells.

In this project Kayser has developed a concept for a new multiple-well experiment unit based on existing technologies for single well units, to fit inside the KIC-Magnum container with enough volume available for a sophisticated camera system and associated electronics. The University of Nottingham has designed a multiple camera system based on Raspberry Pi computers capable of obtaining high resolution images of the contents of the culture cells. The entire payload comprising a multiple cell experiment unit and multiple cameras monitoring each of the cells can be enclosed within a 1U container that can provide several levels of biological and chemical containment.


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