2016.B.1.4. BAMMsat – A platform for beyond LEO space environments studies on biological systems in CubeSats and CubeSat-like payloads


David Cullen (1)
Jack Longley (1)
Jennifer Kingston (1)
David Lee (2)
Martin Black (2)
David Pearson (2)
Christopher Waring (2)
Ryan Pink (3)

  1. Cranfield University, United Kingdom
  2. UK Astronomy Technology Centre, United Kingdom
  3. Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom




Bio-CubeSat, biology beyond low Earth orbit, mammalian cell cultures


Access to space environments (primarily for exposure to space radiation and/or microgravity) to study a wide range of biological systems is often restricted by long-lead times, infrequent flight opportunities and high costs using traditional space platforms. CubeSats and similar approaches offers the possibility of reduced lead-times, more frequent flight opportunities and reduced mission costs but with compromises of reduce experiment mass, volume, power and data budgets. To date there has been a limited number of relevant CubeSat flights with bioscience payloads (GeneSat-1, PharmaSat, O/OREOS and SporeSat) and these have successfully demonstrated the potential for flying bioscience and related experiments on CubeSats.

Access to space environments beyond LEO for bioscience experiment is even more restricted with significant experiments only occurring during lunar exploration in the 1960’s and 70’s. Beyond LEO flight opportunities for CubeSats opens the possibility of restarting bioscience experiments in relatively low cost platforms and designed to aid the near future re-expansion of humans beyond LEO. This is demonstrated by the on-going development of the NASA BioSentinel mission and the LIFE experiment on the ill-fated Phobos-Grunt mission.

Cranfield University together with partners have been developing the BAMMsat concept – “Bioscience, Astrobiology, Medicine and Materials Science on CubeSats”. This involves a hardware design adaptable for a broad range of applications and where common features are the abilities to: (i) house multiple samples, (ii) maintain the samples in an appropriate local environment, (iii) appropriately perturb the samples and (iv) monitor the samples before, during and after perturbance.

An end-to-end BAMMsat payload breadboard, compatible with a 2U payload flight model design, has been developed with the ability to house 40 discrete samples in a microfluidic system and observe these with a miniaturised fluorescence microscope and a suite of other sensors. Among the many possible BAMMsat biological payloads ranging from micro-organisms through to mammalian cells, the first steps have been achieved in demonstrating compatibility of the breadboard with the ability to fly and study human cell cultures in space. Maturing of this demonstration will open the use of CubeSat platforms for the study of human cell biology in space and including contexts associated with increasing the understanding of issues associated with long-term exposure of humans to space environments.

The presentation will described BAMMsat, review the need for bioscience experiments beyond LEO and consider applications of BAMMsat in beyond LEO flights and especially the effects of the interplanetary radiation environment on biological systems.


  • Download the slides in PDF format here (4MB)

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