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Kirara service for high-quality protein crystal growth in microgravity


Kirara#5 call for samples

Greetings from space!

We are happy to share that Kirara#4 recently returned from its mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and that we are already planning and preparing for the upcoming mission. Read more about the samples flown so far by the Kirara service.

Kirara#5 is already under preparation! And so we are calling for samples for the upcoming missions, and these are not strictly limited to proteins, as shown through the examples of previous missions.

In case you missed it, Space Commerce Matters, together with ICE Cubes and the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS), organized a webinar focused on "Crystal Growing in Microgravity". The keynote speaker, Dr Anne Wilson from Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, USA, presented her project on a meta-analysis of Crystals Grown in Microgravity. The recorded webinar can be viewed here.

What is Kirara? A low-cost crystallization service in space, providing the opportunity to take advantage of the unique microgravity environment on board the International Space Station (ISS) for crystal growth in support of many applications, such as drug discovery. The service uses an original small incubator unit developed by JAMSS and accommodated inside the ICE Cubes Facility on the ISS.

[Fig. 1]

Why space? The microgravity environment on-board the ISS has been proven beneficial to enable and study complex molecule crystallization processes. In space, gravity and convective forces do not get in the way of crystal formation, allowing crystals to grow larger, with a more rigid, ordered, near-perfect structure compared with those produced on Earth. The unique microgravity laboratory and environment of the ISS can therefore be used to support, for example, the investigations for the development of novel drugs that could treat viral outbreaks or antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Why Kirara? Because it offers a unique end-to-end service where microgravity and crystallization experts determine the ideal crystallization conditions for the user. Several options are available to users to analyze their crystals once returned to Earth. These include support to crystal testing with the same experts also helping in the set up and performance of post-flight analysis (e.g. X-ray diffraction of the crystals), as requested. All the deliverables and intellectual property rights obtained belong to the customers. 

Previous missions

The Kirara crystallization service has had four successful missions so far. During the first mission in December 2019, seven pharmaceutical companies and research centers participated and the first ever cellulose synthesis by enzyme in microgravity took place. On Kirara#2 in December 2020, the Kirara service was used to investigate Veklury, a redemsivir-based medicament for treating COVID-19, from InnoStudio Inc. and CycloLab Cyclodextrin C&D Laboratory Ltd. In December 2021, Kirara#3 exposed to microgravity the research of five different customers from Pharma/AgBio companies and research institutes from three different continents – Asia, US and Europe. Recently, Kirara#4 hosted samples for drug R&D (COVID-19 related research) and academic research (life sciences and agriculture), as well as educational and inspirational projects.


ICE Cubes/Space Applications Services contacts: 

Leonardo Surdo:

Dr Miguel Ferreira:


29 July 2023

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