Automation of bioregenerative habitats for space environments Conference Paper uri icon


  • Long duration manned missions to explore new environments require habitats with automated bioregenerative life support systems, since resupply from Earth is not feasible. Bioplex, the ground facility proposed by NASA Johnson Space Center for bioregenerative life support research, consists of cylindrical modules including biomass chambers that provide food and oxygen to support crew survival. Manual duties involved in processing and maintaining crops consume more calories that the crops can reasonably produce. Decreasing risk in the hazardous environment of distant closed systems, automation of crop tasks saves time and energy, reduces crew exposure to mold and exposed harvesting machinery, and improves efficiency. Automation needs are many in Bioplex but heavy hauling and lifting consume a substantial amount of calories, since the corridors in the chamber are narrow and cramped. Various configurations of a tray handling system, Traybot, were explored, resulting in an overhead two-rail system with a vertically driven basket. Modes of operation for harvest cycles determined the requirements for the chassis, basket, power, actuator and control components. In a hazardous environment, working along side humans demanded flexibility in design and control of Traybot. The Bioplex study found that Traybot's role is crucial to survival in space habitats.

name of conference

  • Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation

published proceedings

  • Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation

author list (cited authors)

  • K. M. Lai-Fook, .., & R. O. Ambrose.

publication date

  • January 1997