Mountain View
, plans to launch its first nanosatellite equipped for simultaneous dual-payload experiments next year.

Dubbed the Organism/Organics Exposure to Orbital Stresses (O/OREOS) satellite, the spacecraft is designed to expose living organisms and organic compounds to the space environment, monitoring changes induced by exposure in an effort to help scientists better understand its effect on living things in space.

Peter Klupar, director of engineering at
, said one experiment payload is designed to include two biological specimens, while the other will incorporate four types of reaction cells containing organic molecules.

“It’s basically spores and dirt from salt ponds … and amino acids,” Klupar, told Space News in an Aug. 4 interview. “The basic idea is to put organics in space and expose them to that environment in order to better understand the long-term viability of plants and animals in space.”

Specifically, the O/OREOS experiment will help determine a baseline for what happens to living organisms when exposed to cosmic radiation and the absence of gravity, Klupar said.

With its modified payload structure, O/OREOS is the first nanosatellite equipped to conduct two experiments simultaneously, Klupar said.

“That’s a triple cubesat with two different payloads, and it’s the first time we’ve had two separate experiments running at the same time,” Klupar said.

The free-flying science demonstration nanosatellite is based on NASA’s GeneSat-1 and PharmaSat spacecraft bus, but with a modified payload structural section, new bus software and new payload experiment control software. The project will also develop a simple deployable drag device to help ensure O/OREOS re-enters the atmosphere within 25 years.

said the 5.2-kilogram spacecraft will launch into low Earth orbit in February 2010 as a secondary payload aboard a Minotaur 4 expendable launch vehicle on the U.S. Air Force STP-S26 mission from
Kodiak Island