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The European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), built by EADS Astrium, is an experiment facility for biological investigations under microgravity. It is dedicated to experiments on plants, especially multi-generation (seed-to-seed) experiments, studies of how gravity effects early development and growth, as well as studies of signal perception and transduction in plant tropisms. The centrifuge allows threshold experiments to study the influence of gravity on biological systems. Experiments with small animals like insects or amphibians as well as studies with cell and tissue cultures can be performed in the EMCS.
The EMCS is a multiuser facility with exchangeable experiment containers.
Main features of EMCS are
- Temperature controlled incubator, 18°C to 40°C
- Two centrifuges, 600 mm in diameter, controlled speed 10-3 x g to 2 x g
- Automatic gas composition and control in the incubator
- Automatic water supply to samples in experiment containers
- Automatic humidity control at experiment containers
- Exchangeable rotors
Experiment containers can be equipped with experiment specific hardware by PIs. The EMCS Facility was launched on ULF 1.1 and is currently is installed in EXPRESS Rack 3 in the ESA-owned Columbus module onboard the International Space Station.


 The EMCS provides a generic Experiment Container (EC) which houses all experiments

– Each rotor can accommodate 4 ECs
– Experiment hardware is internally mounted on the EC baseplate
– ECs provide EMCS-supplied air, water, and 1 level of containment to the experiment
– Transparent cover enables illumination (e.g. day-night cycle) of experiment, as well as imaging via EMCS cameras throughout the experiment run

There are two EMCS Rotors (A, B). These are the primary interface to the experiment containers and provide a controllable gravitational environment. The rotors also provide the Rotor Based Life Support System (air humidity, air filtering and water pumps) for scientific samples, they provide cameras to support science data gathering and they provide light to the experiment (visible spectrum or infrared). There are EMCS water reservoirs placed in the middle of each EMSC rotor, which can provide each of the 8 experiment containers with water. In some of the past ECMS experiments the experiment water has been integrated into the experiment unique equipment inside the experiment containers. (Courtesy of EADS Astrium)

See How to do Your Experiment in Space for detailed information on what the EMCS offers.  



The Vessel ID System is designed to monitor ship traffic from space through reception of Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages containing position, velocity, ship identity and more. From the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) the coverage is world-wide between latitude of 67 degrees north and 67 degrees south. The advantage of having a system for tracking of ships on the ISS is that it gives the opportunity to monitor the ships over a much larger area than what is possible with antennas on ground. Vessel ID has been operating on the ISS since June 2010. The monitoring and control of the payload on a day to day basis is performed by N-USOC OPS.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) for vessels is a ship and shore based broadcast system defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Since the base station networks for Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) are limited to coastal waters, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) joined forces to start investigating the possibility to monitor AIS-equipped ships from space. FFI conducted the space-based AIS technology readiness study for ESA that concluded that the concept is feasible. A discussion between FFI and ESA managers over lunch resulted in the idea that now is NORAIS. In January 2009 the Norwegian User Support and Operations Centre (N-USOC) was appointed the task as Facility Responsible Centre (FRC) for what became Columbus based AIS (COLAIS). The COLAIS project also known as Vessel ID Sys is a joint effort between ESA, N-USOC, FFI, LUXSpace, Kongsberg Seatex and Astrium IOT.

Vessel ID Sys receives and decodes AIS messages from vessels within range of the International Space Station i.e. 67 degrees north and south. These messages are then transmitted to ground and the operational control at N-USOC distributes the data to the scientists e.g. FFI.

The Vessel ID Sys Payload consists of the following parts:iss023e048576_flight_config.jpg

• External antenna launched with shuttle mission ULF3 / STS-129 and installed by Randy Bresnik during one of his spacewalks during this shuttle mission.
• Two AIS Receivers operating one at a time (launched with HTV in September 2009)
- the NORAIS Receiver developed by FFI and Kongsberg Seatex
- the LuxAIS developed by LUXSpace
• An RF-filter (used by the LuxAIS receiver, and bypassed when the NORAIS Receiver is operating)
• ERNObox computer from Astrium Bremen that collects all messages received by the operating receiver and sent to ground.

The Columbus internal components of Vessel ID Sys were installed by Timothy (T.J.) Creamer in May 2010, and after powering on June 1st 2010, commissioning activities were performed to verify the capabilities of the NORAIS Receiver. The NORAIS Receiver has been operating nominally since the start and is planned to operate until mid-2013.

The Vessel ID Sys is a technology demonstrator for space-based AIS receivers as well as an evaluation of the system performance and signal environment. A long term goal of this project is that maritime government institutions could use space-based AIS for surveillance of ship traffic.





Point of contact:
Principal investigators:
Richard Olsen (
Torkild Eriksen (