SpacePharma SA has successfully completed their first on orbit experiment using their miniaturized, end-to-end commercial space laboratory, mGnify—with this milestone, the company now offers researchers affordable access to microgravity via three platforms: ground simulators, parabolic flights and Earth orbiting smallsats.
According to Yossi Yamin, the founder of SpacePharma SA, mGnify is a laboratory that is smaller, more efficient and more cost-effective than any other available space laboratory in existence today. While the company had experienced success with mGnify in ground simulators and parabolic flights, this is the first time a unmanned satellite performs a scientific experiment in space, the ultimate testing environment of mGnify. With mGnify and now three proven platforms, the company is giving the scientific community exactly what they’ve asked for — continued, long-term access to microgravity at a fraction of the cost to perform advanced experiments that will accelerate the discovery and production of new drugs and materials.
The successful experiment studied the effect of microgravity on the kinetic profile of enzymatic reactions. This biochemical reaction study, which was commissioned by Professor Rainer Fischer and Dr. Raluca Ostafefrom the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany, is one of four experiments aboard DIDO2 for SpacePharma customers.
DIDO2, SpacePharma’s CubeSat, is a solar-powered nanosatellite that is 3U in size and uses UHF/VHF and S-band communications to and from Earth. DIDO2 was one of 104 satellites launched on February 14 via the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Inside DIDO2 is mGnify (pronounced mag·ni·fy). Measuring 20x10x10 cm, and weighing 2.3 kg, mGnify consists of an advanced laboratory carrying a total of four experiments from four different scientific domains (Bio-chemistry, Organic crystallization, Self-assembly of nano-blocks, and fluid physics). The lab consists of a remotely activated fluid circuit, various sensors, and optical results readers.
After making successful communication with the smallsat on February 17, SpacePharma’s ground station in Switzerland activated mGnify and turned Earth-based control and management over to Professor Fischer and his team.
"There are quite a few experiments that show that microgravity has influence on living organisms, however very little is known about the nature of this effect. As enzymes are involved in all functions of living cells it is logical to assume that the effects of microgravity could be observed at this level,” Professor Fischer said. “Fraunhofer IME was very happy to team up with SpacePharma in order to test different hypothesis about enzyme kinetics. Using SpacePharma technology, we are able to perform experiments in space from the comfort of our office and we are very excited about the results and future possibilities that this technology offers."
The successful experiment carried out was monitored by the miniaturized spectrophotometer and light microscope readers on-board mGnify and demonstrated the capability of SpacePharma’s integrated end-to-end system to transmit the information back to Earth through the proprietary front-end software. DIDO2 and its mGnfiy will remain in orbit approximately 500 kilometers above Earth for as long as three years. SpacePharma currently has plans to conduct additional nanosatellite launches with many more experiments using mGnify later this year.