Preparatory ground-based experiments on cultivation of Chlorella vulgaris for the ISS experiment PBR@LSR
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Hybrid life support systems combining physicochemical and biological subsystems are in great interest for the midterm future of manned spaceflight including extensive basic habitation LSS research on ground exploration missions on Moon and Mars. While many possible systems have been theorized and tested in lab conditions, no experiments on realistic system level have been performed in space. The DLR experiment PBR@LSR (Photobioreactor at the Life Support Rack) (former name PBR@ACLS) is set to give a first technology and performance demonstration on board the ISS in the U.S. module Destiny in 2018 by combining an microalgae driven photobioreactor with the carbon dioxide concentrator of ESA’s Advanced Closed Loop System built by Airbus DS. This paper focuses on cultivation aspects of the ongoing preparations for the flight experiment. These ground-based experiments include several experiment runs with the microalgae Chlorella vulgaris with durations up to 25 days in a complete closed loop photo-bioreactor prototype and additional small scale experiments for pre-cultivation storage and post cultivation control of the C. vulgaris suspension. The cultivation requires a sensitive setting of parameters to sustain an environment for microalgae growth such as illumination, nutrients, temperature, etc. to aim for long-term period cultivation of up to 180 days. The paper concludes with recommendations for PBR@LSR to enable an improved cultivation.