European Physiology Modules (EPM)
The European Physiology Modules (EPM) are developed within the Microgravity Facilities for Columbus (MFC) Programme, the most important European contribution to the International Space Station's microgravity utilisation initiative. The MFC programme covers the development of five multi-user laboratories in the fields of Biology, Human Physiology, Materials and Fluid Science.
For more detailed information about EPM and the EPM modules, download the full EPM description (pdf) »»
EPM is a modular, multi-user facility consisting of a Carrier supporting a set of Science Modules. Each Science Module uses a standardised container that allows easy on-orbit reconfiguration of the facility. This flexibility will allow accommodation of new Science Modules to be developed in response to new scientific requirements. The Carrier can support up to 8 Science Modules, and also includes storage volume for consumables and deployed items.
The EPM facility builds upon the previous European experience gained through experiments on such facilities as Sled, Anthrorack and Physiolab. Human physiology experiments in microgravity are aimed primarily at increasing our knowledge of how the human body reacts to long-term weightlessness. However, this area of research also contributes to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage. Typical research areas include: Neuroscience, Cardiovascular and Respiratory System, Bone and Muscle Physiology, and Endocrinology and Metabolism.
NASA has developed a complementary facility to the European Physiology Modules known as the Human Research Facility (HRF). It has collocated the Human Research Facility (2 racks) within the Columbus Laboratory with the European Physiology Modules facility in order to allow combined experiments using instruments from both facilities.
The EPM Carrier provides the infrastructure for the Science Modules and includes data handling, thermal control and mechanical accommodation. The Carrier interfaces directly to the Columbus Laboratory and provides support (thermal control, power, data handling) for both rack-mounted and external Science Modules. The Carrier can accommodate up to eight active Science Modules, allowing several Science Modules to perform experiments in parallel. The Carrier contains two 8 PU passive containers used for on-board stowage.
In addition to Science Modules mounted in the Carrier, it is also possible for instruments deployed in the Columbus centre aisle, to interface to the Carrier via a Utility Distribution Panel. This panel provides the same interfaces as offered to the rack-mounted Science Modules.
The Carrier is equipped with two separate computers for data handling. The facility Control Computer (FCC) handles all interfaces with the Columbus Laboratory and monitors the status of the Carrier.
The Science Module Control Computer (SMCC) handles all interfaces with the Science Modules. The SMCC collects data from all Science Modules and forwards this to the FCC for further downlink to ground.
The commanding of the Science Modules and house-keeping telemetry collection is performed by the SMCC via a redundant RS-485 serial line.
For science data trans¬mission to the ground and facility laptop, a facility internal Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN) is available, using a TCP/IP protocol. In addition, the Carrier provides an easy to use TCP/IP interface to the Columbus high-rate downlink channel (this channel has a maximum capacity of 32 Mbps).
The Carrier Utility Distribution Panel also provides a standard Universal Serial Bus interface, which can be used by both deployed and internal Science Modules to interface to the Carrier.
The Carrier includes a laptop computer that is used for all interactions with the crew, both for experiment execution and facility operations. The laptop display contains dedicated areas for facility monitoring and common experiment execution tasks.
The remaining part of the display is available for Man-Machine Interface applications provided by Science Module developers, applications which are used to monitor and control the Science Modules themselves.
The facility includes tools for experiment procedure exe¬cution, for both manual crew procedures and automatic procedures. The Science Module developer can use the available procedure developer tool-kit to generate the necessary procedure inputs to be executed on the laptop during an experiment session. The provision of such procedure execution tools ensures a common 'look-and-feel' for the crew across the different Science Modules.
Last update: 15 May 2009