European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) - 07.20.16

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

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The European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) is an ESA experiment facility that is dedicated to studying plant biology in a reduced gravity environment. It supports the cultivation, stimulation, and crew-assisted operation of biological experiments under controlled conditions (e.g. temperature, atmospheric composition, water supply, illumination, observation, and gravity). The facility has performed multi-generation (seed-to-seed) experiments and studies the effects of gravity and light on early development and growth, signal perception and transduction in plant tropisms. Experiments with insects, amphibia, and invertebrates as well as studies with cell and tissue cultures are also foreseen in EMCS.


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Information Pending

The following content was provided by Ulrich M. Kubler, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Ulrich M. Kubler, Astrium Space Transportation, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Facility Representative(s)
Information Pending

European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, Netherlands

Sponsoring Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA)

Sponsoring Organization
European Space Agency

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2006 - March 2010; September 2011 - May 2012; September 2012 - September 2014; March 2015 - March 2016; March 2016 - March 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

The EMCS facility contains an incubator with two slowly rotating rotors. Each rotor can accommodate up to four Experiment Containers (ECs), which house dedicated hardware that is unique to each experiment (Experiment Unique Equipment or EUE), based on its specific investigation. The rotors provide dedicated life support (including temperature, humidity, O2 and CO2) and water supply systems to the ECs, as well as illumination (white and infrared) and observation capabilities. In addition to the incubator, the EMCS facility has a Standard Payload Computer (SPLC), gas supply modules for atmospheric conditioning, a thermal control system, and a drawer containing control electronics and a video recorder. The EMCS facility’s data and command capabilities allow experiment control by the crew and from ground (telescience). The facility downlinks house-keeping, science, and image data.

The incubator is housing all parts of EMCS and provides a gas tight, thermally controlled (+18°C to +40°C) enviroment to the Experiment Containers. The gas atmosphere is common to all 8 ECs and is composed of oxygen/nitrogen and carbon dioxide, stored in gas bottles, and of pure nitrogen, originating from the Space Station.

Two identical rotors (with a diameter of 600 mm) are fitted inside the EMCS Incubator. For both the rotational speed can be independently programmed to provide 0.001 g to 2.0 g, or microgravity level when not rotating. One typical experiment configuration is to have one rotor under microgravity conditions (no rotation) and the second one rotating at a speed of 59.5 rpm, which provides a resulting 1 g level and serves as an in-flight control for the microgravity experiment. However, g-levels on each rotor could be set to precisely meet the specific scientific requirements of the experiment, as an example to mimic the Martian gravity of 0.376 g, or any other level within the EMCS provided range (0.001 g to 2.0 g).

The EMCS EC is a standard container for all experiments integrated into EMCS. It provides an internal volume of 60 x 60 x 160 mm for the Experiment Unique Equipment (EUE) that serves the individual experiment. The EC provides a single level of containment and access to the EMCS gas and water services when mounted on the EMCS rotor. Particulates in the air and water loops are prevented from entering the EC air volume by membrane filters at the EC inlet. Each EC also has sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity and pressure. The EC is provided with power, data, and commanding capabilities via its interface with the EMCS rotor.


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Facility Operations

  • The desired parameters for the gas, water supply, illumination, and observation systems are set for the two sample chambers.

  • The speed of the rotors is set to provide artificial gravity between normal microgravity and up to g-levels as needed for the scientific requirements of the experiment, which can be up to 2g.

  • Experiment unique equipment cartridges are inserted in the two centrifuges for the desired period of time.

  • An imaging system allows observation and recording of the growth over time.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Helleseng KO, Gronnevik A, Fossum KR, Kittang A, Iversen T.  Utliization of the European Modular Cultivation System - opportunities and support functions.. 56th International Astronautical Congress. Fukuoka, Japan; 2005

    Zabel P, Bamsey M, Schubert D, Tajmar M.  Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems. Life Sciences in Space Research. 2016 August; 10: 1-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.lssr.2016.06.004.

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Related Websites

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image The EMCS is installed in an EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) rack. It consists of an incubator containing two centrifuges with space for four experiment containers on each rotor.
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image The photo shows a European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) sample cartridge that will be spun in the EMCS centrifuge. The inset image is of Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) seedings similar to the ones used in the Tropi experiment. Tropi compared the growth of root tips toward light in the absence of gravity and allowed distinctions to be made between two redundant internal plant growth systems that respond to different colors of light.
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image NASA Image jsc2006e02539: View of the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) prior to the launch of STS-121, which delivered the facility to the International Space Station.
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image NASA Image ISS013E66810: European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Reiter, Expedition 13 flight engineer, installing the EMCS into EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) rack 3A.
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image NASA Image ISS013E65579: The EMCS is shown after its installation in EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) rack 3A during Expedition 13.
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image NASA Image: ISS014E10645 - Astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria, Expedition 14 commander and NASA space station science officer, replaces the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) Experiment Container (EC) in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.
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