Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies - Space - TIME SCALE

H2020 LEIT Space

TIME SCALE (Technology and Innovation for Development of Modular Equipment in Scalable Advanced Life Support Systems for Space Explorations) develops concepts and technologies for food production and regenerative life support systems for future manned missions to Moon and Mars. The main deliverable is an Advanced Life Support System Breadboard with operational compatibility with the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), which is located at the International Space Station (ISS).

Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies - Space - TIME SCALE

This project of 3 years unites 8 universities and SMEs with state of the art knowledge and experience on plant physiology, physical processes under Moon and Mars gravity, as well as manufacturing experimental modules for manned or unmanned space flights. Challenges such as lack of thermal convection and the need of ion specific sensors to monitor nutrients are an important part in developing a closed water and nutrient management system. Efficient use of water and nutrients as well as the management of emerging plant stress strongly depends on development of remote, non-invasive plant health monitoring technology that allows to fine-tune crop growth in real time. The system includes advanced imaging techniques and tracking of plant volatiles by Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT‐MS). An efficient water and nutrient management as well as precise monitoring and management of emerging stress in plant crop cultivation are prerequisites for global sustainable agriculture and a key investment for manned space missions.


  • Gain knowledge and develop technology for water and nutrient management and plant health monitoring with relevant applications in crop cultivation in space as well as in terrestrial controlled agriculture.
  • Design an EMCS rotor baseplate that allows the modular integration of several life support systems such as plant, algae and mouse modules.
  • Develop a crop cultivation system with a closed water and nutrient management as well as a plant health monitoring system that is compatible with the EMCS.
  • Develop an algal photobioreactor compatible with the EMCS.
  • Build a breadboard with operational compatibility with the EMCS at the ISS.

Role of Ghent University

The role of UGent in TIME SCALE is to develop and test a plant health monitoring system. Aaron Velez-Ramirez and Dominique Van Der Straeten conceived an advanced multispectral, dynamic imaging system. Together with Joeri Vercammen (Interscience Belgium) and Joke Belza, member of the UGent team, they investigate the possibilities of online volatile monitoring in parallel with plant imaging. This  plant health monitoring technology is not only convenient to screen large plant populations in basic research and breeding programs but is also key to enable efficient resource management in precision agriculture. A major requirement is to accurately visualize a large number of plants with a high spatial and temporal resolution. UGent will achieve this by using imaging sensors sensitive to a wide range of wavelengths, including visible, infra-red and long wave infra-red. These sensors will be used to monitor plant health through assessment of relevant plant performance parameters including growth, water content, leaf temperature, photosynthetic capacity. The system will provide ample possibilities for exploitation in terrestrial precision agriculture and horticulture and will open novel avenues for life support in space, allowing sustainable crop yield.

Coordinator: Ann-Iren Kittang Jost, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

WEBSITE: timescale.eu


Prof. Dominique Van Der Straeten
Department of Physiology, Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology
Phone number: +3292645185
E-mail: e