STS-107 launched January 16, 2003 at 10:39AM.
[STS-107 launch]

A video of the launch:

Our patches:

[Biotube Patch]


[NASA U-Code Patch]


The Shuttle Experiment was designed to take advantage of the magnetic heterogeneity of gravity-sensing columella cells, which initiate the graviresponse of roots by the displacement of starch-filled amyloplasts. Ponderomotive magnetic forces act on structures of different magnetic properties in strong magnetic gradients. The field density decreases at the transition from the ferromagnetic wedges to air and thus forms the HGMF. The HGMF repels amyloplasts comparable with the gravity force. The magnetic force decreases with the distance from the edge. Flax roots were allowed to grow such that the tips of their roots pass through the HGMF. As a result of the internal displacement of the amyloplasts the roots were expected to curve as if gravistimulated.

We had the following objectives:

  • Determine the dynamic factor of the field when the root tips begin to curve to obtain an estimate of the force that plants can perceive.
  • Investigate the growth/curvature pattern as roots pass by the wedge.
  • Determine if amyloplasts are the gravisensing structures.

Mission Overview -- STS-107 Payload -- Biotube Factsheet

The hardware started with a laboratory system that was increasingly refined.

The original concept was developed by Oleg Kuznetsov. Because seed growth in weightlessness is not affected by gravity, each of the eight seed cassette contained two rows of seeds with four seeds per row. Each magnetic field chamber contained 10 NdFeB magnets in two stories that forms a 'circuit' that is closed by two yokes.

Assembly of the Biotube hardware.
The Micro-Effusion Delivery Unit for Space Applications (MEDUSA) delivers water to the seed cassette.
The front view of the computer control unit consists of a flat panel display, a pointing device and a video control port, that allows for downlinking of data.

The KSC support team that helped with design, engineering, and logistics. (L-R) David Cox, April Boody and Ken Anderson. Not shown: software engineer Don Platt.

Although the experiment worked well, the accident upon re-entry resulted in a complete loss of data. The crew and their sacrifice for science will never be forgotten.