The Variable Gravity Machine (VGM) is a SABL insert that supports a wide variety of research in the life, physical, and material sciences aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The VGM allows for variable gravity experiments up to 7.1G while in a microgravity environment. This simulated gravity range covers not only the gravity levels of the Moon and Mars, but also 1G to provide on-orbit comparison studies against terrestrial ground controls. Additionally, this gravity range can provide on-orbit seeding of attached cell cultures from frozen vials to BioCell cell culture plates. The VGM was designed to work in conjunction with the Atmosphere Control Module (ACM) inside of the temperature-controlled SABL while using SABL’s power.

VGM is a novel research capability that increases the efficiency of cell culture experiments because attached cell cultures can be directly seeded in space rather than the usual method of only seeding on the ground. This has the advantage of higher scientific accuracy because attached cell cultures can be launched and returned frozen and do not have any active growth phase in 1G. Another advantage is the crew operations are no longer restricted to begin a day or two after docking with the ISS. Frozen cells are stable for longer periods of time, and the experiment can be conducted weeks after docking. This helps reduce the peak of required crew time immediately after spacecraft dockings.

VGM is compatible with all of BioServe’s gas permeable BioCell variants specifically designed for operation in microgravity. Additionally, VGM is compatible with commercial multiwell cell culture plates in various configurations from one to 96 wells. The BioCells or multiwell plates are installed into a cartridge on VGM by the crew through the use of a user-friendly BioCell Holder. Each cartridge is equipped with switchable 28V or 5V power and telemetry that can provide additional experiment support to a wide range of payloads and experimental design, all commanded from the ground via BioServe’s Payload Operations Control Center (POCC). The VGM can accommodate up to six cartridges at a time.

Key Features

· Controllable gravity level up to 7.1G allows on-orbiting seeding of attached cells, partial and altered gravity studies, 1g on-orbit controls

· Versatile experiment design to a wide array of BioCells and other experimental designs

· Near real-time monitoring of the state of VGM as well as experimental telemetry

· Commanded from the ground via BioServe’s POCC