Launching CFAES into space

A new NASA-funded program is developing a new generation of commercially based, human-occupied space stations. And CFAES, through Ohio State, is one of many partners helping to play a role in it. 

The multimillion-dollar program, led by the Nanoracks commercial space company, will design and deploy the Starlab commercial space station, whose core will be the first science park in space, the George Washington Carver (GWC) Science Park.

Ohio State, as the program’s lead university partner, will support the development and coordination of university research in the space station and science park, will host and operate a ground-based “control lab” for agricultural and other research aboard the facility, and will serve as a research gateway and catalyst for other potential users.

“Starlab is an opportunity for transformational Leadership and partnership with the commercial space sector in cutting-edge research, across a wide range of domains,” Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said. “It builds on Ohio State’s strengths in industry research and leverages our existing research capabilities to support NASA’s priorities for the development and commercialization of low-Earth orbit. It is incredibly exciting for Ohio State to have this opportunity to engage in transformational leadership and partnership with the commercial space sector while building on and leveraging our strengths in industry research.”

Researchers from the College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences, and CFAES, among others, will be involved in the program from Ohio State. Among them will be controlled environment agriculture experts Peter Ling and Scott Shearer of the CFAES Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Chieri Kubota of the CFAES Department of Horticulture and Crop Science; and Christopher Taylor of the CFAES Department of Plant Pathology. Research aboard Starlab will focus on areas including biology, physical science, materials research, and plant and agricultural science. The focus on in-space and terrestrial agriculture is a unique feature of the program and showcases Ohio State’s strengths in interdisciplinary research.

“The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences is excited to host and operate the ground-based control lab for agricultural research aboard the Starlab/GWC Science Park and assist in advancing in-space and terrestrial agriculture,” said Ohio State Vice President for Agricultural Administration and CFAES Dean Cathann A. Kress. “Agriculture is entering a digital revolution. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to advancing controlled environment agriculture and affirms we are leading the way.”