Laboratory of Space Medicine and Space Pharmacology

Space Biology and Life Sciences, Professor Dr. med. Daniela Gabriele Grimm

SpaceX webcast of the CRS-13 launch

The team of our CellBox-2 mission (left to right): Sascha Kopp, Marcus Krüger, Markus Wehland, Daniel Carvalho

Press releases:

Zellen im Weltall – extraterrestrische Ansätze in der Tumorforschung (Interview mit Daniela Grimm), 22.02.2018

English version of the interview: Cells in space – extraterrestrial approaches in cancer research

Wissenschaftler untersuchen Tumorzellen in Schwerelosigkeit, 10.01.2018

Magdeburger untersuchen Krebszellen in Schwerelosigkeit
MDR, 20.12.2017

Krebsforschung in der Schwerelosigkeit
Uni Magdeburg, 18.12.2017

Krebsforschung in der Schwerelosigkeit
idw online, 18.12.2017

Auf dem Weg zur ISS: Deutsche Experimente in Smartphone-Größe
DLR, 15.12.2017

Watch the launch live on NASA TV
Dec 15, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. ET (16:00 CET)


Blog of our CellBox-2 mission (PI: Daniela Grimm)

Effect of Microgravity on Human Thyroid Carcinoma Cells
(Re-flight of our CellBox-1 experiment from 2014)
by Markus Wehland, Marcus Krüger and Sascha Kopp

Saturday, 13.01.2018: Dragon's return to Earth

The Dragon cargo craft has fired thrusters to depart the vicinity of the International Space Station. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean is set for 10:36 a.m. ET (16:36 CET).

Credits: NASA / SpaceX
Mission completed!

Thursday, 11.01.2018: Information about the return of SpX-13

NASA has begun receiving weather reports from the vehicle provider for the Dragon landing site and at this time seas are favorable for the return attempt on 13 January at 11:09 CET with an estimated 38 hour trip to the Port of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, 19.12.2017: The experiment begins...

The hardwares were installed in the STaARS 1 research facility in the Destiny module of the ISS. Our thyroid cancer cells will grow for 10 days under the effects of real microgravity before fixation.

Sunday, 17.12.2017: Dragon docked to ISS

Today, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was captured by astronauts via a robotic arm and installed on the Harmony module of the ISS. Our experiments included the Dragon delivered over 2000 kg of supplies and scientific gear for astronauts on the space station. It will stay at the ISS until mid-January, when it will return to Earth.

Credits: NASA

Friday, 15.12.2017: Launch of SpaceX CRS-13

[...] 3, 2, 1, ignition, lift off.... The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on schedule at 10:36 a.m. ET from the newly-refurbished Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. The Falcon 9's first stage safely touched back down on Landing Zone 1 of Cape Canaveral at 10:44 a.m. The second stage put the Dragon capsule carrying our experiments into orbit. The Dragon is expected to arrive at the ISS on Sunday (Dec 17).
It was a stunning experience seeing, hearing and feeling the rocked to lift off and viewing the motor to land back on earth. We are all happy and proud to be part of such a mission. The group likes to thank, DLR for this opportunity and Airbus for the perfect support. Thank you all for following the blog. The next mission is not far away. So see you there!

Credits: SpaceX

Thursday, 14.12.2017: Cells frozen

We froze some of our "space" cells for future control experiments.
The Dragon capsule was loaded with the hardwares.


Wednesday, 13.12.2017: Medium refresh

SpaceX was continuing with the preparations for the launch on Friday. We got our hardwares back from STaARS to refresh the medium in the cell cultivation chambers.

Tuesday, 12.12.2017: Rocket checks, cell culture ...and the next launch scrub

Whereas SpaceX was working on the rocket, we continued cell culture in the SLSL lab in case of further postponements.

In the afternoon the launch was scrubbed again until December 15th (Friday) 10:36 a.m. ET (16:36 CET). Friday will be the last possibility to launch CRS-13 before standing down for the beta cutout until christmas.

Monday, 11.12.2017: Handover to STaARS / Launch scrub

After a short night (and an even shorter night for our friends from Airbus) all experiment containers were set-up and inspected and ready to be handed over to STaARS at 7:30 in the morning. Everything went smoothly and we later heard that handover to NASA was similarly successful.

During the dinner we received the bad news that the launch was scrubbed until December 13th (Wednesday) 11:24 a.m. ET (17:24 CET).

Credits: SpaceX

Sunday, 10.12.2017: Final hardware assembly

The day of the complete and final assembly of our hardware has come at last. So far, the prospects for a launch on Tuesday are good, and we were excited to take this last and most important step towards integration of our experiment. After about nine hours of focused work, we were able to present the complete units to Airbus for a final inspection. In essence, our share of the work is done now and our experiments are in the hands of Airbus, STaARS, and SpaceX. Of course, we will still continue to cultivate a backup batch of cells for a possible launch scrub scenario, but we are all very optimistic that SpaceX CRS-13 will eventually launch on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed and if you want to follow the launch, you can view it live on NASA TV (, starting from 11:15 a.m. ET (17:15 CET) with a planned lauch time of 11:46 a.m. ET (17:46 CET).

Friday, 08.12.2017

SpaceX confirmed the launch date...

Thursday, 07.12.2017

We were invited to view the launch of SpaceX CRS-13 on December 12th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station!

Wednesday, 06.12.2017: Static fire

At 3 p.m. (ET) the Falcon 9 rocket passed the hot-fire test. The engine was firing for 7 seconds; no obvious issues.

The Falcon 9 rocket at SLC-40 (left) and the static fire test (right). Credits:

Tuesday, 05.12.2017: Tank assembly / Next launch delay

Launch is now on December 12th. Despite the drawback concerning the launch, we carried on with our preparations of the experiment. Today, the assembly of the tanks was on our schedule and everything went smoothly. With this step being finished, we are now at a point, where no further work on the hardware is necessary until the handover day. Nevertheless, cell culturing continues so that they will be in top shape for their space journey.
The static fire test was postponed to December 6th (Wednesday).

Monday, 04.12.2017: Pump integration and test / Further launch delay

Bad news: The launch on the 8th has been canceled. There is a small chance that it might happen on the 9th, but most of the insiders do not expect a launch before the next time window on the 12th/13th. A good portion of the day was spent with securing new hotel and rental car arrangements. Fortunately, our science is not affected by this delay. Apart from the ongoing cultivation of the FTC-133, first steps towards hardware assembly were taken by integrating and testing the pumps in the housing. In the afternoon, a meeting between all teams took place, where the detailed handover procedures were discussed and finalized.
The static fire test was postponed to December 5th (Tuesday).

Saturday, 02.12.2017: Pump sterilization

Preparation of the different hardware components continued with the sterilization of the 6 pumps. To achieve this, we flushed the pumps first with ethanol to remove and kill any possible microbial contamination and subsequently washed them with sterilized water to flush away any trace of ethanol, which might later interfere with the experiment.
The static fire test was postponed to December 4th (Monday).

Pump sterilization procedure and an actual picture of Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), where the rocked will be launched (SLC-40 credits:

Friday, 01.12.2017: Hardware training and sterilization

The hardware training continued and Sascha, Marcus and Daniel had the opportunity to practice the assembly and disassembly of the hardware until no further open questions remained. In addition, the flight model components were sterilized in the autoclave. The tin foil dishes we bought here at Publix proved to be a very practical solution, as they allowed a space-saving storage under the clean bench.
The static fire test was postponed to December 3rd (Sunday).

Thursday, 30.11.2017: Hardware training

We were very happy to welcome the team from Airbus DS. They brought our hardware with them and we used this day for a first general meeting of all involved parties to discuss the recent developments and the latest evolution of the CellBox hardware. Later, smaller groups formed, which reviewed specific points of the assembly process under the supervision of the engineers.

Wednesday, 29.11.2017: Daniel joined our team

Yesterday our colleague Daniel Carvalho arrived. He, too, will be setting up the hardware on the flight day. But first, he received a saftey orientation from the SLSL staff and a tour through our lab space from us. Sascha gave a short introduction to the equipment and showed, that the cells did not yet reach confluence. Nevertheless, the culture medium was exchanged.
A static fire test for our Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled for December 2nd (Saturday).

Upper row: Sascha showed Daniel the FTC-133 cells.
Lower row: Marcus organized some things at the computer.

Tuesday, 28.11.2017

Like most things in America, the SLSL autoclave is huge. Our two bottles of culture medium waste are dwarved by the apparatus and almost look a bit forlorn inside the large chamber. In the meantime, our FTC-133 cells keep growing well and will need some more days to reach confluency.

The huge SLSL autoclave (left) and our FTC-133 cells in the incubator (right).

Monday, 27.11.2017: First launch scrub (04.12. -> 08.12.)

We have the first launch scrub! We were postponed to December 8th without further information. Tomorrow we will change the flights and search for a new accommodation as our hotel is fully booked. Hopefully, this will be the only postponement.

Sunday, 26.11.2017: Splitting cells

Our cells have now reached a density, at which we could split them a second time and cultivate a new passage. Cell were seeded at a low concentration and will require only little maintenance over the next days. Still, everything works out smoothly as planned.

Saturday, 25.11.2017: A day to relax

Despite the problems of the Falcon 9 rocket which should launch the Zuma payload before SpaceX CRS 13, we are still good for launch on December 4th. :-)

Friday, 24.11.2017: Feeding cells

Today, the cells received new culture medium. So far, they have grown well, but are not yet confluent, therefore we can cultivate them a few days longer before splitting them again. We will check their status again on Sunday.

Thursday, 23.11.2017

Happy Thanksgiving (or as many Americans call it: Turkey Day)! It is one of the most important holidays in America and accordingly, most people have a day off and celebrate with their families before diving headfirst into the black Friday craze in the hope of striking a record-breaking bargain.
We, too, took a day off, as our cells did not need our attention today, and instead explored the Cocoa Beach vicinity. We were surprised to see that Santa obviously has a summer residence he comes to when he feels like taking a break from the North Pole snow.

Wednesday, 22.11.2017

As expected, the cells were in a very good state after the night in the incubator and we were therefore able to remove them from the small T25 cell culture flask and seed them into larger T175 cell culture flasks for further subculturing and propagation. When confluent, one of these big T175 flask will suffice to supply all our six CellBox hardware units with enough cells.

Tuesday, 21.11.2017: Cell culture started

Today, the actual processing of our FTC-133 cells began. We received a shipment of live cells and Sascha checked the state they were in. We were relieved to see, that the cells were in a good condition. Nevertheless, as a precation we also thawed a frozen stock of FTC-133 and cultivated them alongside the shipped samples. Tomorrow we will tend to the cells further, change the culture media again, and continue our preparations for the CellBox-2 mission.

Upper row: We received living FTC-133 cells from California.
Lower row: Sascha started the cell culture for the CellBox-2 mission.

Monday, 20.11.2017: Our first day at the SLSL

The first day at the Space Florida Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) was dedicated to setting up our workspace in the lab as well as in the office area, getting to know the facility, and receiving safety briefings. We are sharing a laboratory with our colleagues from the University of Hohenheim, and we were delighted to meet one of them, Claudia Koch, who already arrived some time before us due to the needs of their cells. We were still a bit exhausted from the trip and the jet lag, therefore, we had an early dinner and went to bed soon after.

The SLSL building (left) and our laboratory (right).

Sunday, 19.11.2017: Journey to the US

The day of departure to the US. At the moment, our team consists of Sascha Kopp, MSc, Dr. Marcus Krüger, and Dr. Markus Wehland. We all met at Berlin Tegel Airport, where we took a flight to Frankfurt/Main. From there, we continued directly to Orlando. Overall, the flights were very smooth and the two Mar(k/c)uses were extremely lucky to have the four seats 30D-30G all for themselves during the intercontinental flight. The only small drawback was a 1h delay of the Orlando flight, caused by some logistical problems of the ground service companies. Luckily, our visa made a very quick immigration process possible, and the rental car pickup was unproblematic, so that after about 25h (from waking up at home to getting sleep in the hotel) our travel day finally ended.

Lower row: One of our hotel rooms (left) and our rental car (right).