Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras is collaborating with Vellon Space, an Indian space startup, to advance extra-terrestrial manufacturing research and development. Officials at both organizations view the collaboration as a significant milestone in orbital microgravity research.

Vellon Space will receive technology development funding from IIT Madras to demonstrate its miniature space laboratory (AsteriX Lab) in orbit.

IIT Madras’ Extra-Terrestrial Manufacturing research center (ExTeM-IITM) is the pilot customer for this in-orbit demonstration mission of Vellon Space. The AsteriX Lab, during its demonstration, will undergo space qualification to conduct biological experiments, particularly in long-duration cell culture under lower earth microgravity. This demonstration in space is expected to take place by next year.

Sowing a seed for biomanufacturing in space

“This demonstration sows the seed for biomanufacturing in space which can revolutionize cell culture and drug development processes in space, ultimately leading to enhanced pharmaceuticals and better human health outcomes,” said Sathyan Subbiah, PhD, professor, department of mechanical engineering, IIT Madras, and coordinator, ExTeM-IITM.

ExTeM-IITM is a group of researchers teaming up to focus on developing technologies for manufacturing things in space for use in space and on Earth.

“It is indeed satisfying to contribute to the capability demonstration of biological experiments in space,” added G.K. Suraishkumar, PhD, professor, department of biotechnology, IIT Madras and co-principal investigator of Phase II of ExTeM. “They contribute toward producing superior products in space for use on Earth or for use during space flights. This collaboration could include significant advancements in understanding microgravity’s effects on biological systems, innovations in drug development processes, and the creation of commercial opportunities in the space technology sector.”

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