Biomass Production System (BPS)

NASA - Biomass Production System (BPS) fact sheet
BPS Root Module with dwarf wheat plants (Source)

The Biomass Production System (BPS) was developed by Orbital Technologies Corporation in partnership with NASA engineers and scientists. It was initially designed for the Shuttle and SpaceHab, but was later modified to fit in the International Space Station (ISS), and it contained two experiments on the ISS in 2002 during expedition 4. The first experiment was a Technology Validation Test (TVT), where the BPS validated several subsystems and technologies that were later used to design the Plant Research Unit (PRU). The second experiment was called Photosynthesis Experiment and System Testing and Operation (PESTO). The PESTO demonstrated that plant productivity (photosynthetic rate, transpiration rate, and biomass) does not differ from ground controls. From this experiment, scientists learned that gas exchange is not directly affected by microgravity, but is affected indirectly by the lack of gravity-driven convection in microgravity.

Chamber Components:

  • Four individual plant growth chambers (can be independently removed)
  • Four environmental control systems (each chamber had an independent control system)
    • Temperature
    • Humidity
    • Lighting (dimmable fluorescent lights)
    • CO2 concentration (injects pure CO2 when needed, no CO2 scrubbing included)
  • Active nutrient delivery system
  • One video camera for each chamber (four total)
Harvesting Brassica rapa from a BPS root module (Source)

References:

  • Review and analysis of plant growth chambers and greenhouse modules for space (link)
  • Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems (link)
  • Biomass Production System (BPS) plant growth unit (link)
  • Biomass Production System (BPS) Technology Validation Test Results (link)
  • Microgravity effects on thylakoid, single leaf, and whole canopy photosynthesis of dwarf wheat (link)
  • A Researcher’s Guide to the International Space Station: Plant Science (link)
  • Marshall Flight Center: Biomass Production System (BPS) (link)