Mice Drawer System Facility (MDS Facility) - 07.19.17

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Mouse Drawer System (MDS) is a multifunctional and multiuser system which allows experiments in various areas of biomedicine, from research on organ function to the study of the embryonic development of small mammals under microgravity conditions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Facility Manager(s)
Gianmarco Gianelli, Thales Alenia Space, Genoa, Italy

Facility Representative(s)
Information Pending

Thales Alenia Space - Italia, HQ, Rome, Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Italian Space Agency (ASI)

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2009 - October 2009; September 2013 - March 2014

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending


  • Planned
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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • The Mice Drawer System Facility (MDS Facility) is an Italian Space Agency (ASI) facility which is able to support mice onboard the International Space Station during long-duration exploration missions (from 100 to 150-days) by providing living space, food, water, ventilation and lighting.

    • Mice can be accommodated either individually (maximum 6) or in groups (4 pairs). MDS is integrated in the Space Shuttle middeck during transportation (ascent and descent) to the ISS and in an EXPRESS Rack in Destiny, US Laboratory during experiment execution.
    The MDS hardware is used for experiments which study the influence of microgravity on rodent physiology and anatomy. The MDS is a self-contained habitat that provides its occupants with living space, food, water, ventilation, and lighting. Its internal waste management system guarantees that animals are isolated from their waste by-products and that these by-products and food crumbs do not escape into the ISS where the crew is living and working.

    MDS consists in one external container (dimensions 421 x 480 x 516 mm) in which several subsystems are integrated:
    • The Mice Chamber (MC) is divided into two sections. Each section is internally subdivided in three equal cages each one of 116 x 98 mm (floor area) and 85 mm height. A total of 6 cages are available each one providing the following basic services, food bar dispenser, drinking valve and a camera for observation.

    • The Liquid Handling Subsystem (LHS) delivers water to each cage independently through the drinking valve. Water is delivered ad libitum (free feeding); the LHS includes a water tank of 0.5-liters that, once empty, can be re-filled on orbit.

    • The Food Delivery Subsystem (FDS) supplies each cage independently with food bars each one of 149 x 73 x 7.5 mm and a mass of about 90 grams. Once finished, new food bars can be re-supplied through six openings located in the MDS Front Panel.

    • The Air Conditioning Subsystem (ACS) generates a continuous air flow of 0.1 m/s through the cages which is used to perform air renewal and remove waste products. About 5 percent of the total air is exchanged with ISS cabin in order to eject generated carbon dioxide and inject consumed oxygen (open loop). HEPA In and Out filters are used to prevent possible microbiological contamination between the ISS cabin and MDS. Removed waste products (urine, feces, food debris etc.) are collected within waste filters located below each MC section. Active control of air temperature is from 25 to 26 degrees C. Passive control of air humidity by means of desiccant is in the range from 40 to 70 percent.

    • The Illumination Subsystem (ILS) implements light/dark cycles programmable in steps of 5-minutes starting from nominal 12-hour light/12-hour dark. Light intensity is programmable from 0 to 40 lux in steps of 10 lux. Diffuse light is provided during light periods (no bright spots). Infrared light sources are available for mice observation during dark periods.

    • The Observation Subsystem (OSS) permits the observation of mice through the use of 6 video cameras (one/cage). Mice observation is possible also during dark periods. Video data are transmitted to ground in order to permit a near real-time verification of mice health status and behavior.

    • The Control Unit (CU) permits the automatic execution of the tasks necessary to perform the experiment according to a command table previously loaded inside its internal memory.
    Onboard the ISS, MDS is relatively self-sufficient; a crewmember will check the health and status of the rodents on a daily basis, by assessing them through the viewing window. Water levels will be assessed by the crew daily and refilled as needed. Replacement of the food bars and replacement of the waste filters will be conducted inflight by crewmembers every 20-days or as needed. After landing, the MDS will be returned to the investigator for extensive analysis.

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    Facility Operations

    • Operations consist of daily status checks by the crew to assess the health and status of the rodents.

    • During daily status checks water levels will be checked and filled as needed.

    • Every 20-days the food bar and waste filters for each mice chamber will be replaced.

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    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Information Pending

    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites

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    image MDS integrated inside the Double Payload Container. Image provided courtesy of ASI.
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    image Lateral side view of MDS, with waste filter partially removed. Image courtesy of ASI.
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    image MDS before flight to the ISS. Image courtesy of ASI.
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    image NASA Image: ISS020E049908 - NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Expedition 20/21 flight engineer, is pictured near the Mice Drawer System (MDS) in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station.
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    image NASA Image: ISS020E039464 - NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne (mostly obscured), both Expedition 20 flight engineers, service the Mice Drawer System (MDS) in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station.
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