This thesis work presents the design, manufacturing, and ground testing of a 3U Cubesat platform intended for plant growth experiments. The structure is comprised of four identical, but independent plant growth chambers. Each of these accommodates about two cubic inches of soil, and the necessary air volume and moisture regulation to grow a fast-growing plant from seed to seed in 3-4 weeks. The plant growth is artificially stimulated by an array of light emitting diodes (LEDs) at grow light wavelengths that match the properties of chlorophyll, and is monitored by a suite of sensors: temperature, pressure, relative humidity, CO2, custom designed soil pH, soil moisture, and imaging. The latter takes periodic still pictures in the visible and infrared spectrum using LED based illumination at different wavelengths. These images are used to analyze the overall health of the plant and record the developmental stages of the plant growth. The platform is complemented with a raspberry Pi on board computer and a solar panel-based power generation system. The current scientific goal of this 3U Cubesat platform is to study the interactions of soil microbes (bacteria and fungus) and plants. The former can be a source of nutrients for plants and decrease induced stress on these in space conditions. The availability of four test chambers allow scientists to quantify changes and investigate emergent properties of the soil bacterial and fungal populations. The Cubesat design affords the opportunity to investigate the impact of physical factors such as pressure, temperature, microgravity, and space radiation on the soil bacteria and fungi, in addition to the overall plant health. While small scale biology experiments have been performed on Cubesats before, to our knowledge none of those involved plant growth stimulation and monitoring. This platform can be adapted and expanded to meet the requirements of similar scientific research.
Electrical Engineering (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Electrical Engineering (KGCOE)
Loewenthal, Jared A., "A 3U Cubesat Platform for Plant Growth Experiments" (2019). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus