Astronauts must be supplied with breathing air, water and food in space. Closed life support systems are needed to "recycle" these vital resources and thus make them available for long-term use over several years. The DLR mission Eu:CROPIS (Euglena Combined Regenerative Organic Food Production in Space) tests the long-term stability of combined biological life support systems for missions to the Moon or Mars. With the C.R.O.P.® filter system developed by DLR, artificial urine is converted into a nitrate solution with which, for example, tomato plants can be fertilized. A second system based on algae from the University of Erlangen is used to supply the entire system with oxygen and detoxify it if necessary.
Eu:CROPIS is the first mission of the DLR compact satellite and is expected to launch from Vandenberg (USA) on board a Falcon 9 rocket in summer 2018. The research satellite will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 600 kilometres, simulating gravity on the Moon and Mars. The flying greenhouse is equipped with cameras so that the thriving tomato plants on board can be monitored around the clock. For half a year, the satellite will rotate around its own axis 20 times a minute to simulate Moon gravity. In the next six months, it spins 32 times a minute for the Mars simulation. Scientists will be watching with interest the effects this will have on the small ecosystem inside the satellite. Eu:CROPIS will demonstrate that such a Closed Life Support System (CLSS) can be operated and restarted under different gravitational conditions (Moon and Mars).
Applications on Earth concern
Eu:CROPIS thus deals with the origin and future of man in two ways: on the one hand by preparing the way for future exploration missions and on the other hand directly through the experiments carried out on board. With the compact satellite, DLR has an independent platform for conducting its own experiments under space conditions. Due to its flexible configuration, it can be adapted to different user requirements. In this case a rotating configuration is selected due to the necessity of simulating different gravitational levels.