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Facilities on board the ISS

BioServe has maintained payloads on the ISS continuously since late 2001. BioServe now has two CGBA facilities on board ISS (CGBA-4 and CGBA-5) capable of supporting a wide variety of life sciences and microgravity research. By the end of 2012, we expect to launch a third CGBA facility to reside on board the ISS and in 2013, we plan to start phasing out use of the CGBA units and phasing in an evolutionary upgrade of CGBA called the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab or SABL. SABL will be fully compatible with the research historically processed inside the CGBA units but will enable new capabilities while taking advantage of the ISS resources available, specifically using the medium temperature water heat rejection which will allow SABL to operate silently without large fans or pumps.

Ground Based Laboratories

BioServe is equipped with several laboratories that allow the Center to conduct all necessary space flight hardware and science tests prior to conducting the actual space flight experiment. These facilities can also support the conduct of experiment ground controls.

Wet lab

Facilities include a wet lab that is equipped with sink, -80C freezer, refrigerator/freezer, compressed air/natural gas lines, drying oven, ultrapure water system, fume hood, sterile bench, scales, a full stock of chemicals and reagents, flammables cabinet, autoclave, spectrometer and plate reader, bench centrifuge, microcentrifuge, ultrasonic cleaner, shaker table, dissecting microscopes, benches and cabinets and appropriate safety equipment (eye wash and emergency shower). This lab can support a wide variety of life science research setup and processing and is used for hazardous chemical handling and material processing.

Sterile cell culture room

BioServe labs also include a dedicated sterile cell culture room with a Class II biosafety cabinet, two CO2 incubators, water bath, inverted microscope and additional benches and cabinets. This lab is used for microbial and mammalian cell culture work and for sterile handling and assembly of space flight hardware in preparation for integration and launch.

Hardware integration and test lab

BioServe also has a dedicated hardware integration and test lab where space flight hardware is built and put through extensive testing for each mission. This lab is commonly used for integrated testing of hardware components and fully payload assemblies including supporting Experiment Verification Testing (EVT) and various other mission simulations. Dedicated work stations and internet access enable testing payloads in the same configuration used for flight on board the ISS.

Automation Test Facility (ATF) lab

A dedicated Automation Test Facility (ATF) lab is used by BioServe to develop and test automation systems used within BioServe payloads. This includes developing computer-based flight assemblies (single board computers, PC-104 architecture, frame grabbers, data I/O cards, etc), sensor systems and integrated payloads along with appropriate ground support equipment (GSE) used for testing and for interfacing to CGBA (and SABL in the future) facilities while on the ground and once on board the ISS. The ATF allows multiple tests to be conducted in parallel to ensure high quality, long-term operability of our automation systems and to ensure that communication protocols and interfaces will work when any facility is deployed on the ISS. For more on BioServe'sautomation group, see www-bioserve.colorado.edu

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Rodent housing facility

BioServe also maintains a rodent housing facility that can support high-quality housing of mice and rats used in research. This modest facility allows BioServe to conduct research in partnership with industry in physiological effects of spaceflight most notably in the disuse bone loss and muscle atrophy areas. BioServe has equipment and protocols in place to enable ground-based hindlimb suspension with mice as a model of microgravity-induced disuse.

Machine shop facility

BioServe has a 2000 square foot machine shop facility located adjacent to its main offices and laboratories. It is a full-function machine shop with capabilities for flight-qualified hardware production and also making prototype parts. BioServe’s staff machinist has over 35 years of experience. The machining capabilities at BioServe’s disposal include, milling machine (Fadal 4-axis CNC mill, Bridgeport 2.5-axis CNC mill, a Lagoon 3-axis mill), 2 manual lathes, drill presses, and sheet metal forming tools, part finishing which include ultrasonic cleaning, bead blasting, and tumble deburring, a dedicated part inspection area with height gauges, gauge blocks, gauge pins, and digital calipers and a flight qualified material tracking system.

In-house electronics capabilities

BioServe’s in-house electronics capabilities consist of an ESD safe workspace where electronic components can be assembled and tested. These capabilities include cable harness assembly testing, certified soldering to NASA-STD-8739.3, PCB assembly and testing, surface mount PCB assembly, repair and testing and electronic testing using NIST traceable multimeters and oscilloscopes.

In-house testing facilities

BioServe in-house testing facilities include environmental test chambers, with a -80F for temperature cycling, and ISS/STS environmental simulation chambers. BioServe is also conveniently located near Ball Aerospace facilities. Vibration, EMI and EMC testing is done at Ball’s facility.

Payload Operations and Command Center

BioServe has its own Payload Operations and Command Center (POCC) that is securely linked to NASA and allows BioServe to communicate with its payloads while on the International Space Station. Through the POCC BioServe can uplink commands to its payload, downlink health and status reports from the payload and downlink experiment images on an hourly basis if required to support the science.

Finally, it should be noted that BioServe is housed in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado. In other words, BioServe is part of a much larger research community that includes other engineering departments and departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. BioServe has active collaborations with the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Integrative Physiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB). BioServe also works closely with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. All of these collaborations give BioServe access to additional expertise and extensive facilities and equipment used in life sciences research, further increasing the quality of work that we can support for our spaceflight research partners.

BioServe’s fully equipped laboratories and facilities (wet lab, cell culture lab, electronics lab, integration and test lab and mouse housing facility) allow BioServe to test and conduct several space life sciences research projects concurrently. In addition, with these labs BioServe can conduct the same research that might more typically be found in a biology department or life sciences company. This affords BioServe’s professional engineers and engineering students the opportunity to see and monitor first-hand how a space flight experiment operates in the specially designed flight hardware and make adjustments based on testing outcome. Thus, the engineers become better versed in the biology and the biologists become better versed in engineering and mission challenges. This approach has proven beneficial time and time again in enhancing the probability of success of the payload to meet the full research objectives.


BioServe utilizes a central server system operated and maintained by the University of Colorado-Boulder. This system is backed up daily or more frequently with data stored in more than one physical location. All files for the project will be securely stored on the BioServe server. In addition, all BioServe project staff members have dedicated computers in their own office space with sufficient computing power to operate large, complex software packages and high-speed connections for Internet, email and secure communications with NASA and its other partners. In addition, all project personnel have convenient access to printers, scanners, fax machines and other technology required for the project.

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