A new space economy is beginning to emerge. Demand for commercial research is growing rapidly via an expanding community of commercial services providers and users of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Growing activities in space allow for a wide range of experimentation, commercialization, and technology development opportunities that provide an agile onramp for commercial, academic, and government entities. These are the key first steps in shaping the ideal future of low Earth orbit—a future that includes a sustainable space-based national laboratory, multiple space platforms that are accessible for government and commercial research, and diverse businesses built upon the foundation of a thriving space marketplace.
Pioneering and enabling this future is the ISS National Lab, managed by the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). At its core, CASIS is a public-private partnership that leverages limited investment and its unique access to the ISS to maximize opportunities and terrestrial impact for those who look to the stars for inspiration, cutting-edge science, and the opportunity for a competitive advantage.
By all accounts, 2017 was a banner year for the ISS National Lab: More than 100 experiments were delivered to the ISS, from a diverse range of research entities spanning iconic Fortune 500 companies, innovative startups, and top-ten research universities. These projects demonstrate significant growth in demand for the ISS research platform and further reflect the growing success of commercially managed facilities on the ISS National Lab. Also in FY17, more than 60 new payloads across multiple disciplines were scheduled for future delivery to the ISS National Lab, each with potentially high economic, innovation, and/or social value to the nation. New customers including Target Corporation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation began their journeys into space research, focused on cotton sustainability and Parkinson’s disease—major problems that affect human health and the economy on Earth. New collaborations also continued to push the limits of innovation; for example, the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is leveraging the unique advantages of space for tissue engineering to allow scientists to develop and advance novel technologies to improve human health.
ISS National Lab return customers have also continued to bring new and innovative ideas: Several companies took key steps toward initiating in-space manufacturing, and Merck & Co. is pushing medical boundaries by exploring ways to improve drug delivery methods for important cancer therapeutics that could improve the quality of patients’ lives. These game-changing technologies are the types of efforts that contribute to the goal of creating a sustainable economy in low Earth orbit (LEO).
The bottom line of this activity is value and impact back to the American taxpayer and the U.S. economy. CASIS, as a component of its efforts, has developed methods of assessing the value creation of the projects in its portfolio. The projected value of the ISS National Lab portfolio has now exceeded $900 million in incremental revenue tied directly to ISS National Lab projects, while addressing markets of more than $110 billion, new jobs created, value of improvement to lives, new solution pathways of innovation derived, and many other indicators of value and impact.
In this report, you will learn more about these and other key achievements across the many dimensions of the ISS National Lab mission, including:
- Our vision to bring about a sustainable and viable LEO marketplace for R&D and economic growth.
- Success in building demand with non-traditional space research customers that return economic, innovation, and social value back to U.S. taxpayers through the ISS National Lab. We are continuing to see growth in private-sector engagement and investment in ISS National Lab initiatives, and our value-impact assessment framework has allowed for an improved selection process that aims to optimize impact through quantification of project feasibility and impact.
- Powerful partnerships with corporations and other government agencies that are solving major problems on Earth.
- Activities focused on maximizing utilization through CASIS logistics and operating procedures that fairly and transparently enable commercial service expansion and contribute to the success of our Implementation Partners.
These FY17 activities underscore the remarkable progress in spaceflight R&D that stems from the joint efforts of NASA, CASIS, and the scientific, education, and aerospace communities. Furthermore, they illustrate the catalytic power of sustaining a national laboratory in LEO. We are cognizant of the renaissance of human activity in space that is taking place around us and bear the weight of this responsibility with humility and an optimistic view of the future ahead. Today’s efforts are aimed at transforming the ISS National Lab to the next level of innovation and productivity , serving as a critical pathfinder to encourage further investment in creating value from the unique LEO environment.
Moving into 2018, we will continue to promote use of and support the ISS National Lab R&D portfolio to maximize its value and impact to our nation. This includes the continued search for projects of high value and impact, fostering strong collaborations focused on major challenges, improved time to flight, and optimized utilization of transportation and resources. CASIS will continue to listen to and understand feedback from ISS National Lab stakeholders and partners, allowing us to develop and roll out new services to support their growth and success while maintaining transparency and communication. CASIS will also continue to develop multiyear and multi-institutional projects that benefit the economy, promote collaboration and innovation, and provide valuable R&D information—including expanded relationships with government agencies to attract new users and continue leveraging funding.
We are privileged to serve as managers of the ISS National Lab and to push the limits of R&D in LEO to deliver cutting-edge research opportunities not now possible in land-based laboratories here on Earth.
President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson, CASIS