Norwegian User Support and Operations Centre, N-USOC

Representing the very start of CIRiS, the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre was a 1.5-decade project funded by the European Space Agency between 2004 and 2019, aiding researchers within space biology in their needs to carry out life science experiments on board the International Space Station.

Real time operations at the N-USOC control room at CIRiS. Image credit: NTNU Social Research.

  • Title: Norwegian User Support and Operations Centre (N-USOC)
  • Period: 2004 – 2019
  • Funding: European Space Agency

A distributed and decentralized operation concept for ISS Columbus module

In the late 1990s, the European Space Agency (ESA) concluded on a distributed and decentralized operational concept for the Columbus module on the International Space Station (ISS). Nine of the ESA member states established User Support and Operation Centres (USOCs), each with dedicated facilities under their responsibility. The Norwegian USOC staff, with close relations to the Institute of Biology and Institute of Physics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, took on the responsibility of the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), a small, semi-automatic facility designed for running plant cultivation experiments in fractional gravity.

The EMCS – a great, reliable and stable working horse for biology experiments on the International Space Station

Planning, preparing and executing life-science experiments

The ISS is a great example of international and interdisciplinary collaboration, and resulted in a test-infrastructure located in an extreme and remote environment. Getting access to this research infrastructure is not easily accomplished, due to for example cost aspects, safety issues, capacity limitations and political considerations. For these reasons, the importance of planning and preparing ISS research activities in a thorough way is vital. The N-USOC team would nominally spend two years integrating a particular research activity into the EMCS format, prior to hardware launch to ISS. This two-year period would be characterized by various integration activities:

  1. Extensive coordination between N-USOC, scientific investigator team, industry partners, Agency representatives including management, safety, ground segment, ground crew training and flight crew training representatives
  2. Training ground personnel for the upcoming console work
  3. Developing semi-automatic computer scripts and pre-programming many of the environmental settings of the experiments
  4. Evaluating potential fall-outs of the planned missions and how to deal with them
  5. Performing ground verification testing of experiment-unique equipment in the engineering model of the EMCS

CIRiS Point of Contact

Carina Helle Berg
Deputy Head of Department