Advanced Plant Habitat

Advanced Plant Habitat

active Mission

The Advanced Plant Habitat is the largest, fully automated plant growth research facility used to conduct plant bioscience research on the International Space Station (ISS).


ISS Experiment


April 18, 2017


International Space Station


Microgravity Plant Research
Photo of plants growing in a controlled environment
The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) aboard the International Space Station. The APH is a growth chamber on station for plant research. It uses LED lights and a porous clay substrate with controlled release fertilizer to deliver water, nutrients and oxygen to the plant roots.
NASA/International Space Station

Conducting plant bioscience research aboard the International Space Station

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) is the largest, fully automated plant growth research facility that is used to conduct plant bioscience research on the International Space Station (ISS). It occupies the lower half of the EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack and one powered International Sub-rack Interface Standard (ISIS) drawer, providing a fully enclosed, closed-loop plant life support system with an environmentally controlled growth chamber designed for conducting both fundamental and applied plant research during experiments extending up to 135 days. The system requires minimal crew involvement to install the science, add water, and other maintenance activities.

Why is APH Important?

In order to thrive in deep space, there is a need for new technologies in space crop production and food safety which will supplement the space diet with fresh, nutritious crops during space station, cislunar, lunar and eventually Mars missions.

Currently, spaceflight plant research is conducted in plant chambers designed to operate in microgravity. Previous plant growth systems were limited by small growth areas available for crop production. In order to overcome remaining challenges in spaceflight plant research, larger plant growth systems were required.

NASA developed two new plant research facilities, Veggie and the APH, for conducting spaceflight plant research on station as recommended by the National Research Council Decadal Survey Study “Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era.” Both these facilities have larger plant growth areas and are designed for studying crop production, plant-to-plant interactions, and human-plant-microbial ecosystems using large plants in microgravity.

Future plant research conducted in these research facilities will help enable exploration by improving our understanding of how plants, their associated microbiomes in leaves and roots, and how they grow in the spaceflight environment. This knowledge is essential for developing suitable countermeasures to mitigate potential problems of crop production, water recycling and atmosphere revitalization needed for supporting sustainable and long-term human colonies in space.

Space Applications

APH seeks to further our understanding of plant biology and crop growth in space. The variety of experiments flown use the APH facility test the genetic and epigenetic effects of spaceflight, plant metabolism, factors leading to crop flavor, and the effectiveness of APH hardware to grow plants for human consumption in space. Experience gained cultivating crops with APH will inform deep space missions requiring more sustainable and nutritional food sources.

Earth Applications

The primary purpose of APH is to improve our understanding of plant growth in space. However, the findings from these investigations could provide better understanding of plant biology with relevance to generating increased agricultural yields, enhanced flavor, or more stable and easily cultivated crops.

APH Investigations

More about APH