COTS in space: NanoRacks LLC selects Molecular Devices SpectraMax M5e for NASA’s International Space Station

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 19 May 2011. NanoRacks LLC officials have chosen Molecular Devices’ SpectraMax M5e Multi-Mode Microplate Reader for use in NASA's International Space Station, making it the first microplate reader to be used in space. At NanoRacks, the challenge for the engineers will be to modify the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) plate reader in order for the unit to operate comfortably in the zero-gravity environment of the space station.

"Our task over the next several months will be to assure that the astronauts can fully utilize the plate reader in the weightlessness environment of space," says chief engineer Mike Johnson. "This is a fun challenge: the industry researchers specifically called out for the M5e Reader and now we have to adapt it for the space station."

NanoRacks staff chose the M5e Reader for its efficient adaptation to the zero gravity of space, automation, advanced features, ease of operation, and SoftMax Pro data analysis software.

Once the M5e Reader is operational, space-based researchers will be able to conduct analysis on-orbit. “Having the SpectraMax M5e Reader on-orbit will allow researchers to undertake research with real-time results. It was difficult and time consuming to undertake quality, repetitive research projects before the completion of the International Space Station,” says Jeffrey Manber, managing director of NanoRacks. “A new era has begun, and researchers will be able to do quality work without the cloak of gravity."

The M5e Reader will join NanoRacks’ expanding line of commercial hardware on the space station, which includes microscopes, a centrifuge, and research platforms designed to lead to a path to stimulate commercial usage of these products from the broader research community.

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