Check out these photos of the In Situ Space Protein Crystal Growth payload taken in the Cupola of the International Space Station (ISS). This ISS National Lab investigation, led by Kristofer Gonzalez-DeWhitt, consultant for The Bionetics Corporation, sought to demonstrate the feasibility of conducting protein crystal growth experiments in real time onboard the ISS.
As part of the experiment, ISS crew members added solutions to the protein crystal growth hardware, observed crystal formation using a microscope onboard the ISS, and made adjustments to optimize experiment conditions in orbit. Protein crystallization experiments are usually launched to the ISS in pre-filled hardware with minimal interaction from crew members, and investigators are not able to check on the progress of the experiment or make any changes while its in orbit.
The investigation also sought to test a modified version of a commercial off-the-shelf standard MiTeGen Situ-1™ Crystallization Plate that was designed by The Bionetics Corporation and MiTeGen. The payload returned on SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply mission in December, and the research team is in the process of analyzing the crystals, with results expected in the coming months.
To make it easier and more economical for investigators to utilize the ISS National Lab for crystallization research and to enhance the commercialization potential of a crystallization platform in low Earth orbit, the ISS National Lab established a Microgravity Molecular Crystal Growth (MMCG) Program. Find more information about the MMCG program here.
Explore the related resources below to learn more about how investigators are leveraging microgravity conditions on the ISS National Lab for important crystallization research.