Agriculture in space soon a reality thanks to SCK•CEN in Belgium?

With its international BioRock project, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) from Mol (Kempen region) is on board the SpaceX 18 rocket, which was launched on 24 July from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the international space station ISS. Its aim is to investigate the possibility of agriculture in space thanks to local rocks.

Since its first space experiment in 1969, SCK•CEN has always sought to improve the lives of astronauts and to better understand diseases on Earth. 50 years later, the research focuses specifically on space travellers’ self-sufficiency in terms of water and food supply. SpaceX 18 has basalt from the earth, a volcanic rock, and three types of bacteria on board. If it transpires that the latter attach themselves to, and grow on, the basalt, which also happens to occur on the moon, and release nutrients despite the influence of gravity and space radiation, the rock may at a later stage be transformed into fertile agricultural soil and these nutrients may be suitable for food production in the form of agriculture. This makes the crew less dependent on material that has to be transported from the earth. The soil bacterium of SCK•CEN already survives in water with few nutrients, is resistant to toxicity and is able to grow.

SCK•CEN focuses on the safety of nuclear installations, well-considered management of radioactive waste and the protection of people and the environment against ionising radiation.


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Bezoek aan het MYRRHA-project in het het Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie (SCK-CEN). Het Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications is een loodgekoelde reactor annex deeltjesversneller die het SCK tegen 2023 in dienst wil stellen. MYRRHA is wereldwijd het eerste prototype van een kernreactor die is aangedreven door een deeltjesversneller. Het bijzondere aan deze reactor is dat zijn kern niet voldoende splijtbaar materiaal heeft om de kettingreactie spontaan te onderhouden. Hij moet daarom voortdurend gevoed worden door een externe neutronenbron via een deeltjesversneller. Wanneer deze wordt uitgeschakeld, stopt de kettingreactie automatisch en valt de reactor onmiddellijk stil.⁣ —————⁣ Visite du projet MYRRHA au Centre d'étude de l'énergie nucléaire (SCK-CEN). Le Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications est un réacteur et un accélérateur de particules refroidi au plomb que le CEN belge a l'intention de mettre en service d'ici 2023. MYRRHA est le premier prototype au monde d'un réacteur nucléaire alimenté par un accélérateur de particules. La particularité de ce réacteur est que son cœur ne contient pas suffisamment de matières fissiles pour maintenir spontanément la réaction en chaîne. Il doit donc être alimenté en continu par une source de neutrons externe via un accélérateur de particules. Lorsque cette fonction est désactivée, la réaction en chaîne s'arrête automatiquement et le réacteur s'arrête immédiatement.⁣ —————⁣ Visiting the MYRRHA project in the Nuclear Research Center (SCK-CEN). The Multi-Purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications is a lead-cooled reactor and particle accelerator that the Belgian SCK-CEN intends to commission on its site by 2023. MYRRHA is the first prototype in the world of a nuclear reactor powered by a particle accelerator. The peculiarity of this reactor is that its core does not contain enough fissile material to spontaneously maintain the chain reaction. It must therefore be fed continuously by an external neutron source via a particle accelerator. When this function is deactivated, the chain reaction stops automatically and the reactor stops immediately.⁣ ⁣ #sckcen

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