Ohio State chosen as research home for Starlab’s George Washington Carver Science Park Terrestrial Lab

Posted: September 19, 2022

The Ohio State University will serve as the lead partner for the first-ever science park devoted to space research. Voyager Space announced today it has selected a proposal from the University, the State of Ohio, JobsOhio, and One Columbus ("Team Ohio") to host the terrestrial analog of the. George Washington Carver Science Park (GWCSP) at Ohio State. The analog laboratory will be a replica of the Starlab space station science park and allows researchers to test missions and conduct parallel experiments on the ground.

Illustration of multifunctional space station Starlab in flight
Illustration of multifunctional space station Starlab in flight

The GWCSP, established by Voyager and its operating company Nanoracks, is a core element of Starlab, the companies’ future commercial space station. In December 2021, Voyager and Nanoracks won a $160 million Space Act Agreement from NASA to design Starlab as part of their Commercial Destination Free Flyers (CDFF) project. The GWCSP is the world's first-ever science park in space, operating today on the International Space Station.  

"We have only just begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities and opportunities that await us in the ‘final frontier,’ and our ability to maximize future exploration hinges on collaboration between scientists and industry experts," said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson. "Locating the terrestrial lab of the George Washington Carver Science Park at Ohio State will be the best possible way to facilitate this joint effort and ensure we are sharing resources, research and knowledge across multiple disciplines."

The research conducted at the GWCSP terrestrial lab will generate positive social, economic, educational and quality-of-life outcomes for a broad range of constituents, in particular, the Ohio agriculture community. Some of these benefits include research to preserve Ohio’s water quality, improve crop genetics and production efficiency, and enhance animal health for Ohio’s agricultural community.

"The George Washington Carver Science Park is a wonderful example of the powerful synergies that Ohio offers to commercial space ventures," said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. "This landmark partnership at the intersection of aerospace and agriculture is extraordinary. Together, we will accelerate transformational aerospace technologies as Ohio continues to lead this nation into the Aerospace Age of the 21st Century."

The effort will begin this year with a facility at Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This facility is also home to the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Next year, the organizations plan to break ground on a stand-alone facility on the Ohio State Air Transportation & Aerospace Campus, home to the university airport, Ohio State’s Aerospace Research Center, Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal & Aviation Learning Center, and a range of corporate, government and private aviation and aerospace activities. 

"Ohio is the birthplace of aviation and has a deep-rooted history in aerospace and defense innovation," said Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space. "It’s clear that Ohio offers the most beneficial location for a terrestrial facility to support the long-term success and utilization of George Washington Carver Science Park. Company researchers, operators, visionaries, and space change makers in Ohio will have the ability to influence and inspire organizations pursuing aerospace research and development and we are thrilled to be partnering with Team Ohio on this exciting project."

"By collaborating with Team Ohio, Voyager Space will launch one of the most creative public-private partnerships in one of the most sought-after space destinations on this planet," said Professor John Horack, Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy at Ohio State. "We know this facility will transform into a broader commercial space research magnet that serves as the primary North American site for the George Washington Carver Science Park."

Ohio State researchers, including students, are already excited about the opportunity.

Nicholas Nastasi, a PhD student in Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Karen Danemiller's lab, said his research focuses on modeling microbial growth in dust collected from the International Space Station to gain insight into how microorganisms react during actual spaceflight. The research will inform future human-occupied spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit for spacecraft and astronaut safety.

"The Starlab and Ohio State partnership is incredibly exciting," Nastasi said. "This partnership will give current and future students unprecedented access to space-related research. Space has a great ability to inspire, and this collaboration will no doubt inspire students to literally reach for the stars."

Cassidy Brozovich, a senior in the food, agricultural and biological engineering program, is researching the design of 3D printed substrates to grow plants in space. Brozovich said the substrate is recyclable and that the designs are customizable to tailor to each plant’s needs.

"By having the terrestrial analog lab at Ohio State, I will be able to design an experiment to test my models in space. The opportunity to work on something so cutting edge is both overwhelming and exciting," she said. "This also gives Ohio State the unique opportunity to become a leader in the space industry through this project."

The George Washington Carver Science Park honors the legacy of the famed American agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of food products and practical, sustainable farming methods. The science park is the first space-dedicated member of the International Association of Science Parks, a catalyst for global participation in the space research ecosystem.

republished from The Ohio State University News

Category: Research