Executive Summary

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is the manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The mission of CASIS is to maximize use of this unparalleled platform for innovation to benefit life on Earth.

As the nation’s newest national laboratory, the ISS is strengthening relationships among the space community, federal entities, and private sector leaders in the pursuit of national priorities for the advancement of research and technology discoveries and innovation—including inspiration of U.S. youth. Additionally, the ISS National Lab is opening new pathways for the exploration and economic development of space.

Through key partnerships and targeted outreach in fiscal year 2016 (FY16), CASIS brought its first five years of operations to a strong close, setting new records for utilization, growing the ISS National Lab R&D portfolio, diversifying financial support for this portfolio, and witnessing the published success of ongoing projects. This continued success in ISS National Lab operations is demonstrating the effectiveness of the CASIS and the ISS National Lab in maximizing ISS utilization. Navigate to the Continued Success Section

In FY16, these measurable demonstrations of achievement have been notably augmented by tangible growth in engagement and investment, particularly with respect to non-NASA government agencies and the commercial sector. Returning commercial customers are demonstrating user satisfaction as the ISS National Lab portfolio continues to add industry participants, evidence of an effective strategy for maximizing ISS value and impact. Moreover, increased financial contributions from customers and sponsor organizations complement new program-level federal support.

CASIS and the ISS National Lab are also accelerating the future of space-based R&D by supporting development of a commercial market in low Earth orbit. Strategic resource investment and program implementation complement tactical business development, focused solicitations, synthesis of subject-matter-expert input, and facilitation of new in-orbit commercial services—building the foundation for a growing market of non-traditional users. Navigate to the Enabling Commercialization Section

CASIS continues to promote the sustainability of the ISS and future spaceflight platforms through partnerships and targeted outreach. Nationwide events, high-profile initiatives, and new science communication tools amplified ISS National Lab messaging to researchers, policy makers, students, and the public. Additionally, CASIS unveiled a new overarching program, Space Station Explorers, to unify and promote ISS National Lab educational opportunities. These efforts fortify the value of the ISS National Lab and foster support among a diverse community of stakeholders. Navigate to the Targeted Outreach Section

Please explore the FY16 CASIS Annual Report to learn more about the progress of the ISS National Lab in FY16 and the continuing development of spaceflight R&D at the five-year anniversary mark for CASIS management of this unique orbiting laboratory. View an introduction video to the Fy16 Annual Report.

Navigation tips:

  • In this year’s new online format, you can browse the sections of the report by scrolling vertically. To view articles of interest, simply click the title. Hyperlinks within each article may take you to other articles within the report or to additional resources.
  • Use the main navigation on the left to jump to a section of interest, anytime.
  • When you are finished viewing an individual article, you can click next and back to other articles within that section—or close to return to the main, scrolling sections.
  • Detailed and complete metrics are housed on the CASIS Metrics Dashboard, accessible via the main navigation and within the Continued Success section.
CASIS has done an outstanding job in establishing the Rodent Research (RR) platform on the ISS National Lab through the initial phase of the RR series and has innovatively transformed the ISS National Lab into a translational lab involving mammals. This is a truly groundbreaking achievement when it comes to performing patient-oriented research in space geared towards developing a cure for human disease.”
International Space Station Research Project: Systematic Therapy of NELL-1 for Osteoporosis (RR-5)
Teaming up with CASIS to bring a live connection with NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams from the ISS was definitely one of the key highlights from our 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival this past April. Our partners at CASIS were dedicated to bringing this unique experience to our audience consisting of kids, parents, teachers, and STEM enthusiasts. It will definitely be remembered for years to come!”


To convey organizational progress toward improved utilization of ISS National Lab resources, CASIS tracks several strategic and operational metrics that align with our congressionally mandated goals. These metrics serve as key performance indicators within broader ISS National Lab focus areas including: securing strategic flight projects, building reach in STEM education, increasing awareness among national audiences, and maximizing utilization of the ISS National Lab. Additionally, the details on every ISS National Lab project, managed by CASIS, are logged and made publicly available to provide a comprehensive view of the ISS National Lab portfolio. To explore the expanded view of the CASIS FY16 metrics, please follow this link.

metrics link


The throughput of science on the ISS National Lab, under CASIS management, has significantly increased over the last five years, with a total of 125 payloads delivered since FY12. In addition, the amount of upmass (cargo weight) for ISS National Lab payloads has steadily increased since FY14* (a 143% increase). These positive trends in upmass and payload delivery are evidence of the increased utilization of the ISS National Lab and its expanding R&D portfolio.

In FY16, 58 ISS National Lab payloads were delivered, many representing multiple projects. Biomedical R&D, materials science, satellite technology, rodent research, and STEM education payloads (including re-flights of projects lost in previous launch anomalies) were included in these projects. CASIS also enabled new capabilities onboard the ISS, including a commercially developed protein crystallization plate, additive manufacturing capability, DNA sequencing technologies (which allow in-orbit gene expression analysis for the first time), and a commercial external platform that allows exposure to the external space environment without extravehicular activity. Additional payloads included (but are not limited to) three projects from Eli Lilly and Company and projects from Airbus, California Institute of Technology, First the Seed Foundation, Georgia Institute of Technology, Milliken, and Stanford University.

*Current methods of calculating upmass began FY14.

disclaimer about utilization

Record number of payloads delivered to the ISS National Lab in FY16: 56. 125 delivered since FY12. 1758KG of upmass delivered to the ISS in FY16



Results from ISS National Lab projects continue to appear in peer-reviewed scientific publications, further demonstrating the credibility of the ISS as a research platform with novel capability to advance national R&D priorities. Since the year 2005 when the U.S. Orbital Segment of the ISS was declared a National Lab by the U.S. Congress, 69 peer-reviewed science publications have been generated from flight projects sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Since CASIS was selected in 2011 to manage the ISS National Lab and launched its first flight experiment to the ISS in 2014, an additional 20 peer-reviewed research articles reporting results from ground experiments leading to flight have been published as a result of ISS National Lab–sponsored R&D.

Of the 82 peer-reviewed research articles published since 2011, 24 reported results from ISS flight and ground projects selected and awarded by CASIS after it assumed its role in 2011 as the manager of the ISS National Lab. In FY16 alone, results from ISS National Lab research efforts led by both commercial and academic institutions reported significant advances in fundamental cell and molecular biology, translational medical research in bone and muscle disease, remote sensing applications for improved Earth observation, and new results on the cosmos from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on the ISS.

Specific examples from FY16 publications include (but are not limited to):

  • An article detailing results from a plant biology experiment that challenge underlying assumptions about the role of gravity in root development (see the related article in Upward).
  • Multiple papers in the fields of stem cell biology and circadian rhythm effects upon metabolism and health.
  • An article, featured on the cover of a tissue engineering journal describing a new method to improve the accuracy and consistency of bone mineral density measurements using the Techshot bone densitometer flight hardware on the ISS. The method will be used in the investigator’s upcoming rodent research flight experiment that aims to test a new osteoporosis drug.
  • Two articles in the field of remote sensing from space, discussing improvements to processing systems and detection techniques for assessing water quality from space. Such studies influence human health as well as fishing and tourism industries.
  • Two new articles from the AMS on the production, acceleration, and propagation of cosmic rays from deep space. In five years on the ISS, the AMS has detected and recorded more than 90 billion cosmic ray events.

A solid publication database in a particular sector often precedes growth in commercial investment. For additional information on some publications highlighted here, visit www.spacestationresearch.com/research-on-station/iss-national-lab-research.

Peer-reviewed scientific journal publications

*Some citations included in this metric were published prior to the designation in 2005 by the US Congress creating the ISS National Lab, but were included because the publications describe ISS flight hardware and/or flight data for investigations sponsored by the ISS National Lab and flown to the ISS.


The ISS National Lab plays a role in not only encouraging commercial companies to perform investigations in space but also leveraging external financial contributions and exploring options for financial independence and sustainability of future spaceflight R&D platforms.

Under the terms of the CASIS Cooperative Agreement with NASA, $3 million per year of the appropriated funding CASIS receives from NASA is reserved for use as research grants. CASIS has surpassed this $3 million grant target for research portfolio funding for four years in a row by maintaining internal operational efficiencies, exceeding the target by 78% in FY16.

Moreover, CASIS leverages this grant funding against external resource investment, using it as seed funding and encouraging cost sharing with awarded organizations.

  • The CASIS seed funding contribution to estimated individual project cost, on average in FY16, was 35%. This overall cost does not include transportation and integration, since NASA subsidizes these costs under the CASIS–ISS National Lab model.
  • The remaining project cost is covered by non-NASA and non-CASIS funding in the form of cost sharing—external funds originating from both the awardee and from third-party investment, including non-NASA government-agency sponsorship.
  • Moreover, CASIS works closely with NASA, other government agencies, industry, and academia to identify strategic areas that have high probability for ISS National Lab growth between now and 2020—prioritizing seed funding investment in these areas (see Strategic Investment for one example).
  • CASIS also continues to attract venture capital and angel investors, growing its network to 33 investors by the close of FY16. To date, CASIS has facilitated more than 70 introductions between start-up companies and its investor network.

By encouraging cost-sharing arrangements and seeking to maximize the impact of seed investments, CASIS is thus supporting critical activities on the path to financial independence for the ISS National Lab and follow-on commercial activities in low Earth orbit. For example, 32% of the projects selected in FY16 required no CASIS seed funding.

Additionally, CASIS partners with other government agencies and third-party investors to support joint funding opportunities in which part or all of the research grant funding is provided by an external organization (see Building Sustainability for more details). While not all of this funding was awarded to specific projects in FY16 (a portion will be awarded in FY17), $6.3 million in this external funding was secured toward such “Sponsored Programs” in FY16 alone.

Project funding sources CASIS funding attributed to project awards, cumulative.


CASIS continued to expand and diversify the ISS National Lab R&D portfolio in FY16, selecting 34 new projects for sponsorship. Of the selected projects, 16 are from investigators new to the space industry, 17 originate from commercial entities, and 4 represent STEM education projects (3 of which involve commercial partnerships). To date, of the non-education projects selected, more than half are from commercial companies.

In FY16, CASIS also expanded its relationships with government agencies to leverage additional funding and create more opportunities, selecting projects involving Department of Defense and Department of Energy initiatives and securing external funding for ISS National Lab research solicitations from both the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (see Government Agency Partnerships) for more details.

Additional highlights from newly awarded organizations include (but are not limited to):

  • Commercial companies selected in the field of additive manufacturing—a new 3D-printing facility on the ISS will enable new pathways to in-orbit production, and a second commercial organization is working toward rapid development and testing of space hardware utilizing additive manufacturing technology.
  • Several startup companies selected with biotechnology projects—resulting from a joint research opportunity with the Boeing Company as part of the MassChallenge business accelerator competition.
  • An award to Delta Faucet to evaluate water droplet formation, water flow, and pressure in microgravity to improve water conservation for shower head technology—demonstrating the continued progress of the ISS National Lab in attracting R&D from Fortune 500 companies and their subsidiaries.
  • Five awards to academic research institutions, including Cornell University, that will use the ISS National Lab to study topics in fluid dynamics ranging from vapor bubbles to droplet spreading. These investigations, many of which have commercial support, will directly benefit a wide range of industries including microelectronics, avionics, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture.
  • An education project award to Facebook’s Oculus, which will connect the new innovation of the virtual and augmented reality community with the ISS National Lab, offering students a unique immersive learning experience through advanced technology.
  • A second award to a commercial entity in the field of remote sensing and technology development; the project will launch a multi-user facility to the ISS to provide commercially available wide-band antenna and data processing capabilities.

Finally, a hardware enhancement project in collaboration with NASA will augment molecular biology tools on the ISS to allow in-orbit gene expression analysis for the first time (allowing real-time experimental modifications).

graphic_mappinTap here for a geographic representation of the CASIS FY16 awarded projects »
View details about the newly selected projects (pdf) »

Projects awareded to date from FY12-16: 9 OGA (3 in FY16), 48 Academic (10 in FY16), 66 Educational (4 in FY16), 73 Commercial (17 in FY16) In FY16, 29 additional commercial payloads were added to the ISS National Lab manifest from commercial service providers.


The ISS National Lab R&D portfolio enabled by CASIS has grown to almost 200 projects representing diverse fields. The projects reflect the diversity of innovation potential for the ISS National Lab, spanning life and physical sciences, remote sensing, and technology development. Additionally, a strong representation of projects focused on educational initiatives reflects the low-cost, high-visibility opportunity to foster science literacy in innovators of tomorrow and increase nationwide reach of ISS National Lab awareness.

Highlights from the 34 projects awarded in FY16 include (but are not limited to):

  • Technology development projects involving additive manufacturing, a new laser communications system, light-weight cables that could help reduce spacecraft weight, satellite technology, and two projects focused on in-orbit manufacturing of improved optical fibers (for telecommunications, medical devices, and sensors for aerospace and defense).
  • Multiple projects studying microphysiological systems, or “organs on chips.” These systems for fundamental discovery and translational research have the potential to provide superior models of how diseases afflict human tissues, ultimately enabling disease prevention and drug discovery.
  • Multiple projects in fundamental fluid dynamics resulting from a joint research opportunity with the National Science Foundation, the results from which have multiple applications in the commercial, biomedical, and agricultural sectors.
  •  Two projects studying wound healing, one in spaceflight rodents, toward military and civilian applications.
  • A project utilizing the low Earth orbit vantage point of the ISS for the third year in a row to improve tropical cyclone intensity measurements through enhanced modeling.

Additionally, an FY16-selected rodent research project to evaluate an implantable drug delivery system involves a collaboration between two returning customers: the Houston Methodist Research Institute (an academic medical center focused on translational research and precision medicine) and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (a global pharmaceutical research organization that had more new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015 than any other company).

graphic_mappinTap here for a geographic representation of the CASIS FY16 awarded projects »
View details about the newly selected projects (pdf) »

FY16 Awarded Projects by category: 15 life sciences, 6 physical sciences, 2 remote sensing, 7 technology development, 4 education.

This infographic represents projects that were directly selected by CASIS or through sponsored programs in collaboration with CASIS. It does not include projects managed by commercial services providers that may have been newly manifested for flight to the ISS National Lab in FY16.

CASIS has established a standardized, proposal-based system to make the ISS National Lab available to the wider scientific community. This approach allows any researcher that can benefit from the unique microgravity environment of the ISS to apply for access and perform their experiments onboard the ISS.”


The ISS holds tremendous opportunity for augmenting terrestrial studies and opening new pathways to innovation. Until recently, this R&D platform was reserved for mostly government initiatives, but the ISS National Lab space managed by CASIS is open to a growing community of new users, who are now able to leverage the unique benefits of science in space. Excitingly, an increasing number of returning customers over the five years of CASIS operations indicates user satisfaction within this new ISS National Lab community.

With education, research, and technology projects ranging from discovery and translational pharmaceutical research to Earth observation, the ISS National Lab is expanding access to low Earth orbit. This provides users with results that inspire new pathways to innovation and forge the creation of new commercial opportunities and market sectors in space that encourage additional flight opportunities and follow-on studies. Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Merck Research Laboratories has now flown two protein crystal growth experiments to the ISS to improve structural information for new drugs, which will increase drug efficacy and improve drug design for better delivery and longer storage “shelf life.” A third project is slated to launch in FY17, again leveraging protein crystallography.
  • Novartis has flown two rodent research investigations monitoring the effects of spaceflight on the musculoskeletal and neurological systems of mice, as models of human disease onset and progression. These projects are providing new molecular targets for novel therapeutics for the treatment of muscle and bone diseases on Earth.
  • Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI) has flown a project to the ISS National Lab focused on better understanding fluid flows through very small channels—toward optimization of drug delivery devices. Three additional projects from HMRI have been manifested for flight to the ISS National Lab over the coming years, one of which stems from a public-private partnership fostered with Novartis, to explore applications of the above-mentioned drug delivery technology. Due to its heightened interest in the value of microgravity R&D, HMRI has also created a new division focused specifically on space-based research: The Center of Space Nanomedicine.
  • A project by Visidyne, Inc. to significantly improve intensity measurements and, subsequently, path predictions of strong tropical cyclones using a measurement technique from the low Earth orbit vantage point of the ISS National Lab is in its third year of renewed operations under CASIS sponsorship. (See the CASIS blog entry from MIT researcher Paul Joss, principal investigator the Visidyne repeat project.)

In the coming years, CASIS hopes to use these and other examples of user satisfaction to help promote the robust capabilities of the ISS National Lab and continue to grow its pipeline of new and returning users. Moreover, the ISS National Lab hopes to attract other users within these sponsored organizations—as it did with Eli Lilly & Co., who have developed and flown three separate projects to the ISS in FY16 from various principal investigators, with a fourth payload slated to launch in FY17.

While the first years of the ISS National Lab were in large part focused on educating new-to-space communities and creating interest among commercial sectors, the five-year anniversary of CASIS management of the lab marks a turning point, in which the original pioneers of inquiry on the ISS National Lab are seeing tangible results and economic benefits from their research and are hoping to build on them further with follow-on investigations.

Commercial Rsearcher Logos


FY16 successes in cost sharing and partnerships demonstrate that these are powerful approaches toward leveraging external funding—improving the pace, throughput, and value of ISS National Lab projects. CASIS continues to drive value creation through utilization of the ISS National Lab, and as the value and impact of spaceflight R&D are assessed and communicated, users are increasingly contributing to project costs, including costs associated with translating terrestrial science to flight. Moreover, CASIS continues to develop “Sponsored Programs,” or collaborations in which third parties fund all or part of the grant awards for a joint research competition.


Cost sharing or matching funding associated with CASIS-selected projects includes both in-kind contributions from the awarded organization and funding from third parties (e.g., collaborating organizations, investors, and other government agencies). This cost sharing:

  1. Advances projects more rapidly than would be possible solely from CASIS funding.
  2. Allows the selection of higher impact, resource-intensive projects that otherwise might be cost prohibitive.
  3. Encourages future sustainable spaceflight R&D supported by customer funding and demand.

Ideally, ISS National Lab projects will contribute funding toward cost sharing for direct internal (principal investigator) costs and the cost of implementation partners (service providers who assist in spaceflight research design and payload integration). In FY16, CASIS continued progress toward achieving this cost sharing goal: 32% of projects required no CASIS seed funding, and the average seed funding required by FY16-selected projects was approximately one-third of projected total project cost. (See Diversifying Financial Support for more details on cost sharing metrics for FY16.)


Seven formal funding opportunities for ISS National Lab research—five of which involve funding support from a sponsor organization—were issued in FY16 to solicit high-value projects focused on disruptive strategies to solve today’s R&D challenges. This represents a landmark success for the CASIS Sponsored Program model: $6,350,000 in external Sponsored Program funding was allocated to ISS National Lab R&D in FY16—$1,100,000 to a project in additive manufacturing and $5,250,000 to the following opportunities:

  • Fluid Dynamics Research on the International Space Station to Benefit Life on Earth, a collaboration with the National Science Foundation that yielded five project awards. (See the Solicitation and the CASIS Press Release on the awarded projects.)
  • Technology in Space prize, a joint effort with Boeing through the MassChallenge Boston Accelerator.
  • Genes in Space™, the second year of a student competition sponsored by Boeing; award expected in FY17. (See the Upward article on the winner from the first year’s competition, whose project was launched in FY16.)
  • Innovations in Space award, a CASIS follow-on (in collaboration with the nonprofit Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance) to NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge; award expected in FY17. (See the New Organ Alliance webpage on the Challenge.)
  • Joint UF-CASIS ISS Research Initiative 2016 Call for UF-Led Proposals, a collaboration with the University of Florida; award expected in FY17.
  • NIH-CASIS Coordinated Microphysiological Systems Program for Translational Research in Space, a collaboration with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health; award expected in FY17. (See casistissuechip.blogspot.com.)
  • Support Services for the Macromolecular Crystallization Program, sponsored by CASIS; award expected in FY17. (See the solicitation and A Key Platform for Discovery for more information.)

These opportunities complement parallel strategic initiatives to foster innovation (see Industry Engagement) and enable commercialization of low Earth orbit (see the section on Enabling Commercialization). (Also see Government Agency Partnerships for more on FY16 CASIS-government partnerships).

Researcher Logos Genes in Space Logo


In FY16, CASIS embarked on a new initiative to better understand and characterize the value and impact of the ISS National Lab research portfolio. CASIS engaged with Navigant Consulting, Inc., a highly recognized consultancy, to develop and implement a value impact methodology customized for space research based on best practices across federal laboratories, commercial companies, and leading nonprofit research organizations. This framework provides CASIS a stronger rubric to directly measure and report project outcomes across the entire research lifecycle. To further strengthen the process, with Navigant’s help, CASIS assembled a panel of R&D experts from across the public and private sectors to conduct an independent evaluation of the ISS National Lab project portfolio using this measurement system and data provided from a wide range of ISS National Laboratory users. The expert panel included world-class technical expertise in each of the domain areas of interest to CASIS as well as decades of experience managing large research organizations (including the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Health and Human Services) and billions of dollars in discretionary R&D investment.

Impact vs Feasibility

The assessment model is based on relevant industry standards and best practices for evaluation of outcomes in two framework dimensions:

  • Impact – the economic, innovation, and humankind/social benefit that results from the research conducted in space
  • Feasibility – the technical and commercialization challenges with the research and overall probability of success in achieving the R&D objectives

The impact dimension is comprised of three metrics categories, each with their own weighted scoring criteria. These criteria and relative importance were developed through a comprehensive review of analog science and R&D organizations and were reviewed in close coordination with key ISS National Lab stakeholders. More than 200 measures were evaluated during the criteria development effort with Navigant. The impact measures include:

  • Economic – application leverage, market innovation, and new revenue potential
  • Innovation – discovery science, research leadership, and unique niche
  • Humankind/Social – building enduring capability for the nation, catalytic effect, and quality-adjusted life years

These measures are balanced against the Feasibility dimension metrics including project clarity, resource commitment, technical approach, and commercialization feasibility. The feasibility criteria help CASIS and the independent review panel assess the overall likelihood of achieving the project’s R&D outcomes.

These impact and feasibility dimension metrics will be used to measure and plot the ISS National Lab portfolio on a matrix and will ultimately allow management to make projected outcome-based decisions on how best to balance the research portfolio with respect to impact, risk, and utilization. In FY17, CASIS will release the key findings from this baseline study and will integrate the value impact methodology into its existing proposal review and portfolio management process.


A panel of independent experts evaluated the CASIS portfolio across the value impact assessment framework. These experts have a wide range of R&D expertise and have managed large research portfolios in the public and private sectors.

  • Dr. Carol Linden, Director of the Office of Regulatory Science and Innovation, FDA (former Deputy Director at Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority)
  • Dr. Daniel Gerstein, Former Under Secretary (Acting) for the Science &Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security
  • Mr. Ron Kurjanowicz, Independent Consultant, RJK Consulting (former Chief of Staff at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Senior Advisor to Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering)
  • Dr. A.M. Rajendaran, Chair and Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Mississippi
  • Dr. Frank David, Founder and Managing Director, Pharmagellan (former Healthcare Investment Banker at Leerink Partners and Director of Strategy at AstraZeneca’s Oncology Innovative Medicines)
  • Dr. James Houston, Director Emeritus of the Engineer Research and Development Center, United States Army Corps of Engineers (former Director)
  • Dr. Adam Cox, Senior Advisor, Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (former Director of Advanced Research Projects Agency at Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate)
  • Mr. Mark Lister, Founder and President, StratTechs, Inc. (former Chairman of the Naval Research Advisory Committee and member of the Secretary of the Navy Advisory Panel)
  • Dr. Mario Barrow, Senior Director of Innovation, Sanofi Pasteur (former Scientist and Project Officer at Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority)
  • Dr. Frank Herr, Head, Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department, Office of Naval Research (former Director of Sensing and Systems Division at Office of Naval Research)
  • Dr. Joanne Andreadis, Senior Advisor, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (former Innovation Lead for the Office of Strategy and Innovation at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Dr. John Lamattina, Senior Partner, PureTech Health (former President of Pfizer R&D)


FY16 marked a critical point in the history of CASIS partnerships, as CASIS established multi-year collaborations with two non-NASA government agencies. These program-level partnerships complement traditional project agreements to expand the role of government agencies in ISS National Lab R&D. This progression in government-agency relationships signifies recognition by these prominent science organizations of the exceptional value of the ISS National Lab as an R&D platform and its potential to benefit U.S. citizens.


FY16 included announcement of the funding opportunity and resulting awardees from the CASIS–National Science Foundation research competition to support fluid dynamics investigations on the ISS National Lab. This was the first Sponsored Program (research solicitation fully or partially funded by an outside organization) for CASIS in partnership with a non-NASA government agency. The NSF committed $1.5 million in grant funding toward five ISS National Lab flight projects, from academic research institutions, that will use the ISS National Lab to study topics in fluid dynamics ranging from vapor bubbles to droplet spreading.

These investigations, many of which have commercial support, will directly benefit a wide range of industries including microelectronics, avionics, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture. Furthermore, CASIS and the NSF Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (NSF CBET) also modified their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in FY16 to allow for new funding opportunities each year to support research on the ISS National Lab. Up to $1.8 million will be awarded yearly for multiple research investigations to support proposals in various target areas (to be defined each year). In line with the CASIS mission, all proposals must demonstrate a tangible benefit to improving life on Earth.


In FY16, CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit applications through the NCATS Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program. This announcement is part of a four-year collaboration through which NCATS will provide up to $12 million in funding to use tissue chip technology onboard the ISS National Lab for translational research to benefit human health on Earth.

Advancing tissue chip research in space could accelerate the discovery of molecular mechanisms that underlie a range of common human disorders on Earth, as well as improve understanding and testing of therapeutic targets and treatments. This area of research is a high priority for CASIS, as discussed in Strategic Investment).


In addition to the NSF and NCATS collaborative programs, CASIS executed agreements with other government agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Energy (DOE) in FY16. The DOD agreement involves a project that is part of a broader effort to understand the effects of spaceflight on tissue healing, potentially revealing biologically relevant pathways for the next generation of wound healing therapies on Earth, and the DOE relationship involves a project in the area of protein crystal growth (see A Key Platform for Discovery for more details). In sum, multiple government agencies are working hand-in-hand with CASIS to support research that utilizes our nation’s unique orbiting laboratory for the benefit life on Earth. By partnering with non-NASA government organizations engaged in leading-edge science, CASIS is able to leverage funding from outside sources to support innovative research onboard the ISS National Lab.

Fluid DynamicsNCATS Tissue Chip


The current era of ISS utilization has been marked by increased commercial R&D. Through an enhanced and proactive business development strategy, CASIS has engaged the commercial sector, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to promising startups, awarding 73 commercial projects over the last five years. These projects not only promote commercial use of the ISS but also spark progress toward a sustainable commercial market in low Earth orbit.


CASIS has developed a comprehensive strategy to engage commercial companies across four research verticals: life sciences, physical sciences, remote sensing, and technology development. CASIS has generated significant, impactful, and measurable demand from customers that pay project and implementation cost and thus recognize the value of the ISS as an innovation platform. Of the 34 new projects developed and selected for the ISS National Lab during FY16, more than 50% involve commercial users (see An R&D Continuum).

In FY16, CASIS also enabled new capabilities onboard the ISS National Lab, including a commercially developed protein crystallization plate, additive manufacturing capability, and DNA sequencing technologies. Furthermore, a rodent research project from Eli Lilly & Co. marked the first use of a rodent grip strength meter on the ISS, which allowed investigators to measure the physical decline in rodent muscle function over time. Additional commercial payloads launched to the ISS National Lab in FY16 included two more projects from Eli Lilly & Co. and projects from Milliken & Company, Airbus, JAMSS America, and SyNRGE. Moreover, the number of commercial facility operators providing business-to-business services in orbit increased by two in FY16—up from one at CASIS inception to three in FY15, with an expected eight companies by 2018 (see Five Years of Growth).


Since FY13, three of the top 25 pharmaceutical and biotech companies worldwide have conducted research on the ISS National Lab—Novartis, Merck, and Eli Lilly & Co. (see Credibility and Validation). This presence of major biopharma companies in recent years can be attributed to the ISS National Lab business development strategy, which prioritizes outreach to Fortune 500 companies and other strategic partners. The resulting high-profile collaborations have yielded significant external contributions to support experiment costs—and generated visibility among R&D communities regarding the utility and accessibility of the ISS National Lab.

In the physical sciences, Proctor & Gamble (FY13), Milliken (FY14), and Nemak (FY15) have been significant additions to the ISS National Lab portfolio under CASIS management. In FY16, CASIS awarded Delta Faucet Company, a member of the Masco Corporation family, a wholly owned subsidiary of one of the world’s leading manufacturers of home improvement and building products.

In technology development, CASIS awarded a project from Facebook's Oculus VR in FY16 that will leverage virtual reality technology on the ISS National Lab for the benefit of broad educational audiences. This announcement is a positive indication of the ISS National Lab’s presence within Silicon Valley.

In a major development in the remote sensing vertical, CASIS finalized a memorandum of understanding in FY16 with Airbus to identify customers for the future Bartolomeo external platform. The purpose of this new agreement is to advance and afford institutions, researchers, and educators a unique opportunity to conduct scientific research, commercial technology development, and educational projects onboard the ISS National Lab.

Finally, CASIS has partnered with Boeing for three years in a row to sponsor a prize as part of the MassChallenge Accelerator Competition that supports a select number of startup companies—and this collaboration has been a source for several life and physical sciences projects within the ISS National Lab portfolio.

Research Areas
A start-up company like LaunchPad Medical does not typically have the funds nor the access to this unique environment. CASIS realized that innovation is scattered in different ecosystems and has built a portfolio of projects that come from both large and small organizations.”


In FY16, CASIS committed significant resources and forged new partnerships to support regenerative medicine and tissue engineering research on the ISS National Lab. These remarkable advancements in stem cells and molecular biology hold significant promise to improve human health on Earth.

  • Regenerative medicine—including cell-based therapies to replace, regenerate, or engineer cells, tissues, and organs to restore, maintain, or improve human health—enables physicians to focus on cures instead of treatments for complex, often chronic, diseases.
  • Tissue engineering—combinations of cells, biologically active molecules, and materials (for example, a scaffold or a bioreactor) assembled and engineered to recreate the form and function of biological tissues and organs—enables researchers to explore not only medical applications for cells but also non-therapeutic applications like tissue chips for studying human disease or testing the safety and effectiveness of drugs.

In FY16, CASIS awarded a total of $1 million to two flight projects as part of the FY15-issued CASIS “3D Microphysiological Systems for Organs-On-Chips Grand Challenge.” The challenge sought to support the development of 3D microphysiological systems (also called tissue chips) for studying human disease. These projects will also explore the effects of microgravity on the assembly of cells into tissues and their function, while demonstrating the capabilities of tissue chip technology to one day enable the growth of whole organs.

In addition to the above projects, which seek to improve tissue chip models of muscle wasting and treatments for musculoskeletal disorders, CASIS awarded a third project in FY16 to demonstrate the utility of using a human nerve-on-a-chip platform as a model for studying disorders of the central nervous system.

The ISS National Lab’s strategic investment in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering has led to important partnerships with other government agencies. In FY16, CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health established a partnership to accelerate the development of 3D tissue models mimicking human physiology to improve our understanding of human health and disease.

This partnership involves a four-year collaboration in which NCATS will provide up to $12 million in funding to advance tissue chip technology development onboard the ISS National Lab for translational research to benefit human health on Earth. In FY16, CASIS and NCATS released the first of these funding opportunities, through the NCATS Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program.

In FY16, CASIS announced an additional partnership in support of organ bioengineering research on the ISS National Lab. CASIS partnered with the New Organ Alliance and the Methuselah Foundation to offer an ISS National Lab flight opportunity to the team successfully completing the NASA Centennial Challenges Program’s “Vascular Tissue Challenge,” a $500,000 prize for creating thick, human vascularized organ tissue (a current hurdle to medical application of engineered tissues). The CASIS Innovations in Space Award will provide one winning team selected from the Vascular Tissue Challenge with $200,000 for flight hardware and support and the opportunity to launch an experiment to the ISS National Lab.


  • CASIS-sponsored research from Stanford University turned stem cells on the ISS National Lab into beating heart cells.
  • A roundtable discussion of subject matter experts identified current challenges and opportunities to leverage the ISS to advance organ bioengineering (see Targeted Sector Advancement).
  • In addition to the tissue-chip projects, a fourth project studying conversion of other cell types into cardiac stem cells was awarded. Three academic research articles in the field of regenerative medicine, resulting from CASIS-sponsored projects, were published.
Cellular Research Organs on Chips


As protein crystallization on the ISS continues to attract preeminent academic and industry researchers, CASIS seeks to develop a reliable program to support robust ongoing investigations in this field. In FY16, CASIS has made great strides toward development of an ISS National Lab Macromolecular Crystallization Program that will provide a platform for discovery to users across many communities—commercial, government, academia, and private research—while also supporting future efforts toward commercialization of low Earth orbit.

CASIS hosted a workshop in FY16 with more than 40 renowned contributors to protein crystallization research to outline the basic requirements for a long-term ISS National Lab crystallization program—including considerations of accessibility and timing, flight and ground resources, parallel education initiatives, and funding. Workshop participants discussed crystallization research efforts, the needs of the protein crystallization community, and current technologies and capabilities in the field. The recommendations highlighted in the workshop report have initiated the path forward in establishing a repetitive, low-cost Macromolecular Crystallization Program in microgravity (see Targeted Sector Advancement for more details).

A first step in developing such a program is engaging existing and potential new partners intent on providing relevant hardware and services. Toward this end, CASIS released a solicitation in FY16 for proposals to provide support services—including laboratory services, integration, and hardware support—for researchers interested in conducting crystallization experiments on the ISS.

To further connect with the crystallization community in FY16, CASIS presented at the annual American Crystallographic Association meeting—one of the largest gatherings of crystallographers. Recommended by subject matter experts at the above workshop, attending this conference expanded understanding of microgravity as a tool to improve crystallization. CASIS also presented at the Frontiers in Structural Biology of Membrane Protein & Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference.

To additionally expand commercial market engagement in spaceflight macromolecular crystallization, CASIS met with 10 key industry targets in FY16—Fortune 500 companies and other strategic partners with R&D that can be enabled by space, including several major pharmaceutical developers.

Many crystals grown in microgravity are larger and more uniformly organized than those grown on Earth, providing more accurate protein structures. This allows better structure-based drug design while also informing improved strategies for drug manufacturing and drug delivery—with the end goal of more effective and affordable pharmaceuticals.

Highlights of FY16 progress for ISS National Lab projects in this area include:

  • The first flight of a commercial protein crystallization plate, developed by biotechnology company MiTeGen, was used as part of a project from Eli Lilly & Co. This accomplishment heralds the intent to move toward crystallization systems that use common laboratory hardware to streamline preflight optimization work. Moreover, initial analysis from the returned experiment indicates good crystal formation (see SpX-8 video).
  • An upcoming crystallization investigation by Merck—a returning ISS National Lab customer—was manifested for flight on SpaceX CRS-10. Analysis of crystals from the initial flight experiments are underway.
  • An investigation by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, seeking to produce crystals of a medically important protein, was awarded.
  • An education project was awarded in which the winning student team from the 2017 Wisconsin Crystal Growing Competition will test their optimized conditions for Earth-based crystallization against microgravity-based crystallization.
Microgravity Protein Crystal Workshop Protein Crystals


In FY16, CASIS continued to accelerate opportunities fueling low Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization efforts related to the use of 3D printing capabilities (also called additive manufacturing) and advanced material manufacturing for in-orbit production. Major industrial and commercial players as well as government agency partners have expressed interest in supporting microgravity-enabled manufacturing and iterative production in space to better understand and gain a competitive foothold in the fast-growing additive manufacturing market.

The Additive Manufacturing Facility developed by Made In Space, Inc. was launched to the ISS on Orbital ATK CRS-6 in FY16, marking a key milestone toward fostering the emerging LEO commercial market. This project brings a fully operational 3D printer to the ISS to enable hardware manufacturing services in space for both NASA and commercial users of the ISS National Lab. Testing and operating a 3D printer on the ISS using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstocks is the first step toward establishing an on-demand machine shop in space—a critical enabling component for in-space manufacturing and processing. (See Five Years of Growth article for more on commercial in-orbit facility operators.)

To further accelerate progress toward LEO commercialization, CASIS awarded two in-orbit production investigations in FY16, to establish the scientific and commercial merit of in-orbit manufacturing of exotic optical fibers for telecommunications, medical devices, and sensors for aerospace and defense. These investigations are intended to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of in-orbit production. Of note, these two projects involve almost $1.5 million in combined company contributions toward projected project cost. An additional project awarded in FY16 resulted from $1.1 million in funding from Space Florida, Florida’s aerospace economic development organization committed to attracting and expanding the next generation of space industry businesses. This external funding was awarded for a project focused on rapid development and testing of space hardware utilizing additive manufacturing technology. Such external financial support of projects demonstrates the growing value proposition of the ISS National Lab in this area.

To align with key stakeholders, garner additional support, and drive leadership in LEO commercialization, CASIS participated in multiple FY16 workshops and industry conferences in the area of in-orbit production.

Highlights of key FY16 event participation include:

  • CASIS co-facilitated an in-orbit production and advanced manufacturing thought-leader roundtable discussion in conjunction with the Space Commerce Conference and Exposition (SpaceCom).
  • At the 2016 ISS R&D Conference, CASIS hosted an in-orbit production Space2Engage session to explore pathways to future additive manufacturing capabilities in LEO.
  • CASIS participated in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Measurement Science Roadmap for Polymer-Based Additive Manufacturing Workshop, alongside more than 150 representatives from private industry, federal agencies (such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Defense), and other national laboratories.
  • CASIS contributed to the NASA In-Space Manufacturing 3D Printing Onboard the ISS Tech Demo Technical Interchange Meeting, which focused on exchanging results from the first phase of flight and ground 3D printing data, including initial analyses determining microgravity effects that affect design and/or performance of in-orbit additive manufacturing.
  • Alongside other government agencies and commercial partners in advanced/additive manufacturing, CASIS took part in the In-Orbit Manufacturing—From Orbital Factories to In-Situ Resource Utilization Webinar, which focused on reviewing the commercial prospects for in-orbit production.
Additive Manufacturing Facility 3D Printing in Microgravity


Feedback from subject matter experts is essential to improve ISS National Lab capabilities and advance R&D in targeted sectors. In FY16, CASIS brought together experts from industry, academia, and government agencies to gather input on how to continue maximizing utilization of the ISS for research areas that have high likelihood for rapid knowledge advancement and potential promise in enabling commercialization of low Earth orbit.

Protein Crystallization:
Many crystals grown in microgravity are larger and more uniformly organized than those grown on Earth, providing better subjects for more accurate protein structure determination. This allows better structure-based drug design while also informing improved strategies for drug delivery and manufacturing—with the end goal of more effective and affordable pharmaceuticals.

An FY16 CASIS workshop assembled more than 40 renowned contributors to protein crystallization research to discuss the current state-of-the-art in macromolecular structural research, the needs of the protein crystallization community, and current technologies and capabilities in the field. The recommendations highlighted in an FY16 report initiate the path forward in establishing a repetitive, low-cost ISS National Lab Macromolecular Crystallization Program. For more information on this program, see A Key Platform for Discovery.

Musculoskeletal Disease:
The responses of humans and model organisms to spaceflight in many cases mimic the onset of health-related outcomes associated with aging and debilitating chronic diseases. Skeletal remodeling in microgravity mimics bone loss seen in osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass/strength is similar to disuse and age-driven muscle atrophy. These outcomes occur rapidly in human, animal, and cell-based models in microgravity—providing accelerated models of Earth-based human disease and aging.

An FY16 CASIS workshop in this area engaged eight subject matter experts from prestigious academic and government institutions to develop R&D goals toward implementation of a robust ISS National Lab musculoskeletal disease research program.

Organ Bioengineering:
Microgravity can enhance the growth of stem cells, promote or retard differentiation, and support the organization of cells into tissue-like structures. Improvement of cell-based therapies, tissue bioengineering approaches, and 3D tissue models used to evaluate diseases and treatments may benefit from near-term investment in space-based R&D. For more information on such regenerative medicine and tissue engineering initiatives, see Strategic Investment.

An FY16 CASIS roundtable discussion in this area gathered 37 thought leaders from academia, industry, government, and other organizations to identify current challenges and opportunities to leverage the ISS to advance regenerative medicine. Recommendations outlined in an FY16 report initiate a path toward establishing a long-term spaceflight research program in tissue engineering.

The ISS provides a unique vantage point for Earth observation and many advantages for sensor technology development and deployment. Real-time and time-series information gathered from ISS sensors have proven invaluable to resource management, environmental monitoring, geologic and oceanographic studies, and assistance with disaster relief efforts.

Previously, in FY15, CASIS commissioned a study to evaluate (1) the capabilities and limitations of the ISS as an operational host for commercial remote sensing payloads, and (2) the products and needs of the data analytics community. A gap analysis of these two areas was released in FY16, serving to inform future ISS National Lab remote sensing and Earth science R&D opportunities and develop engagement approaches for CASIS with other government agencies and industry sectors. The report initialized a path toward optimal use of the ISS National Lab as a platform for project implementation and technology development, in the context of the expanding commercial market for Earth observation technologies and analysis.

Protein Crystalization Organ Bioengineering Gap Analysis


In-orbit commercial facility operators are on the forefront of a new era of space research on the ISS and future space platforms. These facility operators provide users with more choices to address unique research needs and are the pathfinders for a marketplace in low Earth orbit. In its first five years of ISS National Lab management, CASIS has supported growth in the number of these facility operators from one in FY12 to five in FY16—with four additional facilities expected to begin in-orbit operations by FY18.

In a shift from traditional government-operated spaceflight research, these innovative companies are primarily commercially funded and have the responsibility of planning and managing the in-orbit operations for their facilities. For the research community, this means increased opportunities for business-to-business engagement, lower cost of research, rapid experiment iteration, and less reliance on legacy government processes.

In FY16 alone, two new facilities were added to the ISS National Lab, improving capabilities for in-orbit production and multi-purpose research for commercial, academic, and government use. CASIS not only provides ISS National Lab access and allocation resources to these facility operators but also invests in the funding and development of facilities to accelerate commercial development.


Current in-orbit commercial facility operators include:

  • NanoRacks – Since 2009, NanoRacks has provided hardware and services for the ISS National Lab. Three internal research platforms can house plug-and-play NanoLabs and provide critical capabilities such as centrifugation and microscopy. Additionally, the NanoRacks External Platform was launched in FY15 and provides capabilities for Earth and deep space observation, sensor development, and testing for advanced electronics and materials.
  • BioServe – In-orbit offerings from BioServe include multiple life sciences facilities and kits, including the multi-purpose Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL), launched in FY15. SABL supports myriad initiatives for commercial life sciences research as well as physical and material science experiments.
  • TechShot – Launched in FY15, the TechShot Bone Densitometer is a commercial bone-density scanner for use in spaceflight rodent research. In just one year, the successful operation of this facility has already demonstrated its utility as a catalyst for disease modeling research and commercial biomedical initiatives in space (see Credibility and Validation).
  • Made In Space – In FY16, the Additive Manufacturing Facility developed by Made In Space launched to the ISS, enabling 3D printing projects from commercial, educational, and government entities interested in the development of objects for experiments and technology demonstrations. These objects will be produced onboard the ISS in a fraction of the time currently required to have such objects manifested and delivered to the station using traditional ground preparation and launch.
  • Space Tango – TangoLab-1 is a general research platform launched in FY16. This facility from Space Tango allows multiple automated experiments in the life and physical sciences to run simultaneously. This architecture minimizes crew member interaction and reduces complexity while increasing scalability, enabling improved throughput for users.

In addition to currently available capabilities, a growing pipeline of commercial ISS National Lab facilities in preparation from Teledyne Brown, AlphaSpace, STaARS, and HNu Photonics will advance research in remote sensing, materials testing, molecular biology, and tissue culture. Moreover, companies are exploring how these capabilities might transition onto future low Earth orbit platforms, from free-flying spacecraft to expandable modules. Through support of such companies, CASIS is enabling the ISS National Lab to serve as an incubator for the low Earth orbit market and private sector spaceflight interests.

These companies complement the traditional companies that assist ISS National Lab users with payload integration and other services.

“CASIS has been absolutely critical in terms of maximizing the use of the ISS. As scientists, we were unaware that an opportunity such as this was even available to us, prior to the CASIS call for proposals. We believe that CASIS provides a critical service in helping to bridge the divide between biomedical research and space science, and it provides access to a unique environment on the International Space Station.”


During FY16, CASIS supported myriad science conferences, industry tradeshows, and subject matter expert workshops to strategically impact diverse ISS National Lab stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, students, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors. The CASIS events calendar included 82 speaking opportunities, three subject matter expert workshops, and sponsorship of 16 conferences and industry events—positioning and promoting the value of the ISS National Lab to these key stakeholders, particularly the R&D and education communities.


ISSR&DThe 2016 International Space Station Research and Development Conference was a highlight of 2016. The theme of this premier space research conference (organized by CASIS, NASA, and the American Astronautical Society) was “Your Catalyst for Discovery,” and the event programming was tailored to engage new and prospective users, connecting them to the broader research community and service providers.

With more than 700 attendees, the conference involved a three-day agenda packed with high-profile speakers like Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent), Dr. Eric Topol (Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute), NASA Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, and Peter Diamandis (founder of the XPRIZE Foundation). The spirit of collaboration was evident as government, commercial, and academic attendees described research, funding opportunities, and recent results.

In additional FY16 events, CASIS and NASA continued their Destination Station outreach campaign to promote research capabilities and opportunities available on the ISS National Lab. This year, CASIS and NASA hosted six events in New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. These focused educational workshops served as valuable access points to interact with academic and commercial researchers, including leaders from several Fortune 500 companies.


The 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival (SciFest) provided significant momentum for ISS National Lab educational outreach in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). CASIS debuted its new Space Station Explorers educational platform to the 365,000 students, educators, parents, STEM advocates, and members of the public in attendance. This debut was punctuated by two high-profile collaborations with Nickelodeon and IMAX.

  • CASIS hosted a live downlink from the ISS at SciFest, featuring NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams. This was the first live downlink held at this event, which is the nation’s largest celebration of STEM. On Earth, CASIS Executive Director Greg Johnson was joined by actresses Cree Cicchino and Madisyn Shipman from Nickelodeon’s hit show Game Shakers. Nickelodeon’s participation in the live downlink resulted in increased social media engagements and impressions and anchored a robust social media campaign.
  • CASIS collaborated with IMAX to host exclusive screenings of the IMAX Film A Beautiful Planet for SciFest attendees, and the IMAX outreach team joined the Space Station Explorers exhibit to distribute CASIS-developed educator resource guides and activities complementing the film. This joint IMAX–CASIS effort helped connect new educational communities to the ISS National Lab and amplified the distribution of ISS National Lab educational content.


Finally, CASIS coordinated a dynamic public engagement event in FY16—Mission One: Chicago—in collaboration with the Chicagoland Boy Scouts of America. CASIS representatives, along with 15 former NASA astronauts, presented at 13 Chicago-area schools, reaching more than 6,000 students. The all-day event culminated in an evening benefit, attended by CASIS leadership and the former astronauts, to support a Boy Scouts team currently working on a spaceflight experiment through the CASIS National Design Challenge program. The Mission One event provided high visibility for the Space Station Explorers program among educators, students, and the Boy Scouts of America national network.

graphic_mappinTap here for a geographic representation of
CASIS FY16 activities, including events


FY16 held a variety of high-profile opportunities to showcase the benefits of conducting research onboard the ISS National Lab. A central goal of CASIS is to improve awareness about the ISS research platform to not only the R&D community but also the public and our nation’s youth. CASIS uses varied avenues, from traditional communications surrounding ISS resupply missions to the development of videos and digital assets, to accomplish this goal—including out-of-the-box public relation campaigns. Below are some of the major FY16 campaigns that brought heightened visibility to the ISS National Lab and CASIS.

During FY16, four separate ISS resupply missions carried myriad of ISS National Lab payloads to the ISS, including projects in the life sciences, physical and material sciences, STEM education, technology development, and Earth observation. CASIS developed three launch videos during FY16 that helped to bring payloads to life for the mainstream, reaching millions through social media and partner channels.

With these launches and associated outreach came great visibility regarding the capabilities of the ISS. Payloads such as the Additive Manufacturing Facility achieved tremendous media coverage from the mainstream and technical communities. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company also saw three of its four manifested payloads launch, including its rodent research investigation, which prompted great interest from biomedical industry media outlets.

ISS National Lab investigators also had the opportunity to engage with traditional aerospace media prior to launches through NASA-sponsored media events, discussing their research and how microgravity provides advantages over terrestrial studies.

Finally, while on station, many payloads received acclaim from the media community. Notable examples include an investigation using cardiac stem cells (see the related CASIS video) and a student payload (Genes In Space, sponsored by The Boeing Company) that performed the first DNA sequencing in space (see the related article in Upward).

logo_marvelpatchMARVEL MISSION PATCH
CASIS continues to seek creative ways to educate and engage the general public, and in FY16, CASIS executed one such effort by partnering with Marvel and its Custom Solutions Group to develop a mission patch that represented research destined for the ISS National Lab in 2016.

Unveiled at Comic-Con San Diego, CASIS was able to leverage the recognizable Marvel brand while at a distinguishable science fiction and entertainment forum. The mission patch garnered attention nationwide and beyond, featured in many of the largest news outlets in the world, including The Verge, Wired, Washington Post, Gizmodo, Forbes, and many others.

Sneak Peak: In 2017, this continuing partnership with Marvel will involve an education contest.


In FY16, CASIS launched two new tools to improve the ability to communicate and continually improve capabilities for users of the ISS National Lab. The first is a new series of technical reports based on input solicited from subject matter experts to improve ISS National Lab capabilities as a catalyst for innovation, reflecting current and future R&D priorities. The second product is a new quarterly magazine, Upward, that highlights progress from current ISS National Lab investigations.

In FY16, a series of technical reports reflected CASIS efforts to identify technology gaps and extract guidance from experts in industry, academia, and government R&D. Through workshops and commissioned studies, subject matter expert opinion was solicited to optimize utilization of the ISS National Lab to advance R&D in targeted sectors. Subject matter expert roundtables, discussed in more detail in Targeted Sector Advancement , reported on the capabilities and limitations of the ISS National Lab in the context of today’s key national R&D goals, challenges, and needs.

Presenting findings and recommendations from these studies, the new CASIS technical report series synthesizes information about the current states of specific fields—including common themes, critical hurdles, and pragmatic possibilities for how spaceflight research might accelerate discovery and progress. Topics included remote sensing, tissue engineering, and macromolecular crystal growth. For more information on the latter two topics, see Strategic Investment and A Key Platform for Discovery.

These technical papers, which complement existing resources from NASA and CASIS that discuss the benefits of spaceflight research, are meant to build a continuing expert dialogue with the pharmaceutical, biotech, and industrial R&D sectors as well as investigators from academia and government. Moreover, the findings will focus future strategic direction, providing expert guidance toward evidence-based programmatic decision-making.

The inaugural issue of Upward was published in February 2016, with three issues released in FY16 covering a breadth of R&D success stories from the ISS National Lab. This new quarterly magazine, through both online and print editions, serves as the primary conduit to communicate research results from the ISS National Lab to the broad R&D community, particularly ISS researchers. By raising awareness of the benefits of spaceflight research and sharing tangible success related to ISS National Lab investigations, Upward builds familiarity, understanding, confidence, and buy-in from this target community.

    1. Issue 1 highlighted published results from an ISS plant biology experiment, illustrated the new rodent research habitat, and detailed a prototype web application developed based on remote sensing data from the ISS.
    2. Issue 2 featured a guest perspective from Eli Lilly and Company, detailed biomedical findings from an experiment evaluating bone health, and shared initial indications from two recently returned payloads—a student experiment and a study of synthetic muscle for use in prosthetics.
    3. Issue 3 described results from a series of Procter & Gamble experiments, highlighted capabilities of the new WetLab-2 facility, and showcased the recently completed ISS R&D conference through both a feature article and a guest perspective from ISS Chief Scientist Dr. Julie Robinson.

The exciting project successes shared in Upward, presented in narrative with graphic support, demonstrate the value and impact of the ISS National Lab to an expanding readership. Ongoing production of the CASIS technical reports and Upward represent important additions to the suite of products offered to users of the ISS National Lab. For more resources, visit www.spacestationresearch.com.


The official launch of in FY16 was complemented by the addition of eight new educational partnerships. The goal of these partnerships is to scale up participation in existing Space Station Explorers programs and to rapidly increase the amount of ISS National Lab educational content being nationally distributed. The addition of these new strategic partnerships indicates fortification of the Space Station Explorers infrastructure, which has already greatly benefited from existing CASIS partnerships, such as with the Boy Scouts of America (forged in FY15).

In FY16, CASIS aligned with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Florida Alliance, Destination Imagination, Challenger Centers for Space Science Education, IMAX, University of Wisconsin, ImageBEAM, First the Seed Foundation, and Oculus Virtual Reality to expand its network of partners. Collectively, these national partners sponsor programs and initiatives that annually reach millions of students, educators, and members of the public.


In FY16, CASIS hosted its annual STEM Education Partner workshop. This workshop was attended by 22 ISS National Lab education partners and served as a catalyst in forging two major partnerships: The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Destination Imagination.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a flagship partnership for Space Station Explorers, as it provides a network to mobilize increased educational content. The CASIS Education team is working with several clubs to feature content from the Space Station Academy partner program, an online curriculum that provides a first-person logo_boysgirlsclubsimulation of a mission to the space station. Additionally, students from these clubs have also participated in the Zero Robotics Middle School competition, another Space Station Explorers partner program, which teaches the basics of robotics and computer programming to middle and high school students.

In FY16, CASIS also secured a partnership with Destination Imagination, a multi-disciplinary STEM education program that reaches more than 150,000 students annually through project-based learning programs that blend STEM education with the arts and social entrepreneurship. The year-round program culminates in an annual event that CASIS sponsored this year, Destination Imagination Global Finals, which drew more than 17,000 students as well as volunteers, parents, and educators.


In FY16, existing opportunities for student-led space research also continued to immerse students in once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The CASIS-sponsored programs Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), and EarthKam collectively provided real-time access to the ISS to thousands of students in FY16. The success of student research on the ISS even spawned the birth of NanoRacks DreamUp program, which provides logistics support and sponsorship for student spaceflight experiments. The efforts of the ISS National Lab community to cultivate hands-on opportunities for student research were highlighted in Air & Space Magazine, in September.

FY16 also proved fruitful for the newly formed partnership between CASIS and First the Seed Foundation, sponsor of the Tomatosphere program, which engages students in space science and plant biology. CASIS and the ISS National Lab integrated the Tomatosphere curriculum into Space Station Explorers education programming and helped First the Seed Foundation leverage new communication channels in FY16 to connect with U.S. classrooms. Tomatosphere has operated successfully for 15 years and reached more than 3 million students but reported a 55% increase in program participation in FY16, with the initial release of this year’s curriculum reaching 16,500 students.


CASIS launched the Space Station Explorers program in FY16, at the USA Science & Engineering Festival, to provide broader access to ISS National Lab education programs and initiatives nationwide. The goal of Space Station Explorers is to create a rich, vibrant, and engaged community of learners and explorers by using the ISS National Lab as the ultimate learning platform. In FY16, CASIS promoted the Space Station Explorers brand through partnerships, web resources, and event outreach.

logo_sseThis year, 14 active programs under the Space Station Explorers umbrella provided educational opportunities and activities for grades K-12, among a variety of disciplines including robotics, mechanical engineering, literacy, biology, data analysis, and computer programming. Most of the content featured through Space Station Explorers is free or of minimal cost to participants, which accelerates the goal of reaching a broad range of diverse communities to inspire the next generation of learners.

Since FY14, the educational outreach efforts of the ISS National Lab have engaged nearly 800,000 students, educators, and members of the public. CASIS has defined an educational outreach goal of engaging two million students, annually, within the next five years. This long-term vision has resulted in a strategic shift in educational outreach planning as CASIS looks to partner with more formal and informal learning venues including schools, museums, and after-school programs to create a reliable network for Space Station Explorers educational content.

In FY16, CASIS established with the Boys and Girls Club of America, Florida; Challenger Learning Center, Colorado Springs; and Destination Imagination to expand the educational reach of the ISS National Lab. These partnerships will serve as conduits for Space Station Explorers educational content and activities to impact new communities.

Additionally, CASIS continues to optimize educational content for web-based applications and sponsored websites like SpaceStationExplorers.org to provide even greater access to learning opportunities. In FY16, CASIS partnered with IMAX to develop an educator resource guide for the IMAX film, A Beautiful Planet. The educator resource guides were distributed along with five supplemental student activity worksheets to IMAX theaters nationwide. The partnership resulted in high volume distribution of Space Station Explorers content and large-scale visibility for the Space Station Explorers program. Additionally, CASIS has continued to strengthen its relationships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to advocate greater national support from the science education community for Space Station Explorers.

To accelerate progress toward the goal of annually engaging two million students, CASIS has continued to interface with key stakeholders, including the White House, to garner additional support and promote awareness of ISS National Lab education programs. In FY16, CASIS participated in the White House Day at the Labs event, to promote ISS National Lab research alongside federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, NASA, and other national laboratories.

The White House Day at the Labs event accompanied several other high-profile CASIS outreach events in FY16 among diverse communities, including the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival, the 2016 Destination Imagination Global Finals, and the 2016 International Space Station Research & Development Conference. These national events were important to the successful launch of Space Station Explorers, generating high visibility among the STEM education community and helping to engage more than 328,000 students, educators, and members of the public with ISS National Lab educational content in FY16.

graphic_mappinTap here for a geographic representation of
CASIS FY16 activities, including events

CASIS has engaged multiple academic, commercial, government, and venture groups and has encouraged collaborations among these groups. The number of flight integration partners has significantly increased as have the number of research groups, pharma companies, and small business interested in performing experiments on the ISS."

Images throughout report are courtesy of NASA. CASIS, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, and the CASIS Center for the Advancement of Science in Space logo
are trademarks of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space in the U.S. and/or other countries. Published 12/16.