October 18, 2018 | DLR Eu:CROPIS project

A satellite goes on a journey – with tomatoes on board

On Wednesday 17 October 2018, the German research satellite Eu:CROPIS left its manufacturing site, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in Bremen. On board were 24 tomato seeds. The satellite – one metre in length and weighing 230 kilograms – made its way to the US Vandenberg Air Force Base in California via Frankfurt. The satellite is scheduled for launch into space on board a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket in November.

"We want to investigate how to create a breathable atmosphere and food for astronauts in space using their own waste," says Hartmut Müller, Project Manager for the satellite built at the DLR Institute of Space Systems. The aim is for astronauts to be self-sufficient during future space missions lasting several years. Until the launch, the tomato seeds will be in a semi-dormant state. Once in space, an automated system will provide them with water, fertiliser and light – "everything they need to grow," according to Müller. Rotation of the satellite will generate artificial gravity – first like the Moon and then that of Mars.

Even a satellite has to clear customs

Before departing, the satellite had to undergo a series of final tests. Right before loading, it was inspected by customs.

The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne is responsible for the scientific leadership of the mission, which also expects insights into terrestrial applications, such as greenhouses in high-rise buildings ('vertical farms').


Hartmut Müller

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Space Systems
Robert-Hooke-Straße 7, 28359 Bremen

Jens Wucherpfennig

Corporate Communications, Göttingen and Hanover
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Bunsenstraße 10, 37073 Göttingen
Tel: +49 551 709-2108