2014.A.2.2 OREOcube: ORganics Exposure in Orbit


Andreas Elsaesser (1)
Richard Quinn (2)
Pascale Ehrenfreund (3)
Antonio Ricco (4)

  1. Leiden University, The Netherlands
  2. SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, USA
  3. Space Policy Institute, USA
  4. NASA Ames, USA




International Space Station, in-situ spectroscopy, exposure platform, photostability


The OREOcube (ORganics Exposure in Orbit cube) experiment scheduled for launch in the 2016 timeframe on the International Space Station (ISS) leverages the SEVO (Space Environment Viability of Organics) payload of the O/OREOS (Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses) NASA nanosatellite. O/OREOS was launched at the end of 2010 into a 650 km orbit and completed its mission with full success (TRL8) in May 2011, including launch, operation and delivery of collected mission data. OREOcube has been adapted as a minimal-development payload for accommodation outside the International Space Station (ISS) and will perform for the first time in-situ and real-time analysis of the photostability of organics and biomarkers in the UV and ionizing radiation environment of the ISS.

OREOcube will consist of 2 identical 10-cm cubes, each containing a highly capable UV-visible spectrometer and a 24-sample-cell carrier. The spectrometer uses the Sun as light source and measures the 200 – 1000 nm wavelength range. Hermetically sealed sample cells enable time-evolving UV-visible characterization of materials deposited on cell windows in a defined (e.g., headspace gas composition) internal environment. By monitoring the kinetics of structural changes and photo-modulated organic-inorganic interactions with real-time in-situ UV-visible spectroscopy, this experiment will provide insights into the evolution of organic and prebiotic materials in space. OREOcube samples will be retrieved back to Earth after a 12months exposure period, which will allow additional post-flight analysis with ground based analytical techniques. Combining in-situ measurements with post-flight sample analysis will provide time course studies as well as in-depth chemical analysis.

OREOcube proves that small satellites including cubesats and nanosatellites can offer increasingly sophisticated analytical measurement capabilities in small, lightweight, low-power, inexpensive packages adaptable to many spaceflight and planetary applications.


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