Bio/Chemical Analytical Platform Technologies for Low-Cost
Autonomous Small Satellites & Payload Instruments
OVERVIEW: NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA (on leave from Stanford University)
We develop integrated instruments and platforms suitable for economical, frequent space access for autonomous life science, astrobiology, and chemical reactivity experiments in space and other extraterrestrial environments. The technologies represented by three of our recent “free-flyer small-satellite” missions are the basis of a rapidly growing toolbox of miniaturized biologically/biochemically-oriented instrumentation now enabling a new generation of in-situ space experiments.
Autonomous small satellites and payloads (~ 1 – 50 kg) are less expensive to develop and build than “full-size” spacecraft or larger payload instruments and not subject to the comparatively high costs and scheduling challenges of human-tended experimentation on the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, and comparable platforms. A growing number of commercial, government, military, and civilian space launches now carry small “secondary” science payloads at far lower cost than dedicated missions; the number of opportunities is particularly large for so-called cube-sat and multicube satellites in the 1 – 10 kg range. Small payload instruments may also fit into unused mass margins of larger lunar or planetary lander missions. The recent explosion in nano-, micro-, and miniature technologies, spanning fields from telecommunications to materials to bio/chemical analysis, enables development of remarkably capable autonomous miniaturized instruments to accomplish remote biological experimentation. High-throughput drug discovery, point-of-care medical diagnostics, and genetic analysis are applications driving rapid progress in autonomous bioanalytical technology.
Three of our recent missions exemplify the development of miniaturized analytical payload instrumentation: GeneSat-1 (launched: December 2006), PharmaSat (launched: May 2009), and O/OREOS (organism/organic exposure to orbital stresses; launched: November 2010). We will highlight the overall architecture and integration of fluidic, optical, sensor, thermal, and electronic technologies and subsystems to support and monitor the growth of microorganisms in culture in these small autonomous payload instruments, including real-time tracking of culture density, gene expression, and metabolic activity while in the space environment. Flight data and results will be presented from GeneSat-1, which tracked gene expression levels of GFP-labeled E. coli and from PharmaSat, which monitored the dose dependency of an antifungal agent against S. cerevisiae. The O/OREOS SESLO instrument, which is presently studying the effects of radiation and microgravity upon the viability and growth characteristics of B. subtilis and the halophile Halorubrum chaoviatoris during a 6-month mission, will be described as well. O/OREOS second payload, the SEVO instrument, is characterizing photochemical changes to astrobiologically important organic molecules via UV-visible spectroscopy, and this instrument will also be described. Potential to apply derivatives of such technologies to future lunar missions will be discussed.
SPEAKER BIO: Antonio J. Ricco received BS and PhD degrees in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley (1980) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1984), respectively. As a member of Sandia National Laboratories’ Microsensor R&D Department from 1984 – 1998, he developed a range of chemical microsensor technologies and systems. He was guest professor for a semester at the University of Heidelberg’s Applied Physical Chemistry Institute (1996 – 97). From 1999 – 2003, he was ACLARA BioSciences’ Sr. Director of Microtechnologies and Materials, leading development of single-use plastic microfluidic systems for genetic analysis, high-throughput pharmaceutical discovery, proteomics, and pathogen detection. He was Director of Stanford’s National Center for Space Biological Technologies from 2004 – 2007; since 2007, he has been at NASA’s Ames Research Center, on leave from Stanford. From 2003-2010, he has been involved in the founding, planning, and growth of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute at Dublin City University as Adjunct Professor. Dr. Ricco is the co-author of over 300 presentations, 180 publications, and 15 patents. He is a Fellow of The Electrochemical Society and former president of its Sensor Division. He cofounded the Gordon Research Conference on Chemical Sensors and Interfacial Design with Prof. Richard Crooks. He served on the Editorial Advisory Board of Analytical Chemistry, was Associate Editor of Sensors & Actuators B: Chemical, and is presently Associate Editor of the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. Ricco is Vice President of the Transducer Research Foundation and a member of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group.
At NASA, Ricco develops remote, autonomous bioanalytical systems for fundamental space biological and astrobiological studies; he served as chief technologist for the successful GeneSat (2006) and PharmaSat (2009) spaceflight missions, as instrument scientist for the Organisms/Organics Exposure to Orbital Stresses (O/OREOS) mission (2010-11), chief technologist for the MicroSatellite in-situ Technologies mission (2011), and instrument lead for the MEMS-based NIR spectrometer on the LCROSS lunar impactor that found water on the moon in October, 2009. His work at the BDI focuses on single-platform integration of the components of next-generation integrated point-of-care medical diagnostic devices: sample preparation, biological recognition, interfacial chemistry, transduction, mass-producible platforms, signal acquisition, and data analysis. He co-led the integrated mastitis detection project, and participated actively in the platelet, coagulation, and cardiovascular projects during BDI’s first 6 years.