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SPECTROModule: A modular in-situ spectroscopy platform for exobiology and space sciences

Sgambati, A. and Deiml, M. and Stettner, A. and Kahrs, J. and Brozek, P. and Kapoun, P. and Latini, V. and Mariani, M. and Rabbow, E. and Manieri, P. and Demets, R. and Elsaesser, A. (2020) SPECTROModule: A modular in-situ spectroscopy platform for exobiology and space sciences. Acta Astronautica, 166, pp. 377-390. Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.10.010 ISSN 0094-5765

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.10.010


The evolution of the solar system and the origin of life remain some of the most intriguing questions for humankind. Addressing these questions experimentally is challenging due to the difficulty of mimicking environmental conditions representative for Early Earth and/or space conditions in general in ground-based laboratories. Performing experiments directly in space offers the great chance to overcome some of these obstacles and to possibly find answers to these questions. Exposure platforms in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with the possibility for long-duration solar exposure are ideal for investigating the effects of solar and cosmic radiation on various biological and non-biological samples. Up to now, the Exobiology and space science research community has successfully made use of the International Space Station (ISS) via the EXPOSE facility to expose samples to the space environment with subsequent analyses after return to Earth. The emerging small and nanosatellite market represents another opportunity for astrobiology research as proven by the robotic O/OREOS mission, where samples were monitored in-situ, i.e. in Earth orbit. In this framework, the European Space Agency is developing a novel Exobiology facility outside the ISS. The new platform, which can host up to four different experiments, will combine the advantages of the ISS (long-term exposure, sample return capability) with near-real-time in-situ monitoring of the chemical/biological evolution in space. In particular, ultraviolet–visible (UV–Vis) and infrared (IR) spectroscopy were considered as key non-invasive methods to analyse the samples in situ. Changes in the absorption spectra of the samples developing over time will reveal the chemical consequences of exposure to solar radiation. Simultaneously, spectroscopy provides information on the growth rate or metabolic activities of biological cultures. The first quartet of experiments to be performed on-board consists of IceCold, OREOcube and Exocube (dual payload consisting of ExocubeChem and ExocubeBio). To prepare for the development of the Exobiology facility, ground units of the UV–Vis and IR spectrometers were studied, manufactured and tested as precursors of the flight units. The activity led to a modular in-situ spectroscopy platform able to perform different measurements (e.g. absorbance, optical density, fluorescence measurements) at the same time on different samples. We describe here the main features of the ground model platform, the verification steps, results and approach followed in the customization of commercial–off-the-shelf (COTS) modules to make them suitable for the space environment. The environmental tests included random and shock vibration, thermal vacuum cycles in the range −20 °C to +40 °C and irradiation of the components with a total dose of 1800 rad (18 Gy). The results of the test campaign consolidated the selection of the optical devices for the Exobiology Facility. The spectroscopic performance of the optical layout was tested and benchmarked in comparison with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and calibration standards showing good correlation. This includes spectra of samples sets relevant for the flight experiments and a performance comparison between the SPECTROModule ground model and state-of-the-art laboratory spectrometers. Considering the large number of samples and different types of optical measurements planned on-board the ISS, the main outcome was the implementation of an LED-photodiode layout for the optical density and fluorescence measurements of IceCold (42 samples) and ExocubeBio (111 samples); while the UV–Vis spectrometer will be mainly focused on the change of the absorption spectra of the 48 samples of OREOcube.The ExocubeChem samples (in total 48) will be analysed by infrared spectroscopy. The ground platform supports the establishment of analogue research capabilities able to address the long-term objectives beyond the current application.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/134221/
Document Type:Article
Title:SPECTROModule: A modular in-situ spectroscopy platform for exobiology and space sciences
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iD
Sgambati, A.OHB System AG, Bremen, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Deiml, M.OHB System AG, Bremen, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Stettner, A.OHB System AG, Bremen, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Kahrs, J.OHB System AG, Bremen, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Brozek, P.SAB Aerospace, Czech RepublicUNSPECIFIED
Kapoun, P.SAB Aerospace, Czech RepublicUNSPECIFIED
Latini, V.SAB Aerospace, Czech RepublicUNSPECIFIED
Mariani, M.SAB Aerospace, Czech RepublicUNSPECIFIED
Rabbow, E.Radiation Biology Department, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany; elke.rabbow (at) dlr.dehttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-9301-2021
Manieri, P.European Space Agency, the NetherlandsUNSPECIFIED
Demets, R.European Space Agency, the NetherlandsUNSPECIFIED
Elsaesser, A.Department of Physics, Free University of Berlin, Arnimalle 14, 14195 Berlin, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Date:January 2020
Journal or Publication Title:Acta Astronautica
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
DOI :10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.10.010
Page Range:pp. 377-390
Keywords:Exobiology; Astrobiology; Spectroscopy; In-situ monitoring; Low earth orbit; International space station; UV/VIS; IR
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R FR - Forschung unter Weltraumbedingungen
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Vorhaben Strahlenbiologie
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Radiation Biology
Deposited By: Kopp, Kerstin
Deposited On:03 Mar 2020 12:48
Last Modified:03 Mar 2020 12:48

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