At a Glance
- In FY19, the ISS National Lab set records for the total number of crew-time hours utilized over a single year (967) as well as the total number of crew-time hours utilized in a single increment (708).
- A record 89 payloads were delivered to the ISS National Lab in FY19, an annual increase of 20%.
- More than 70% of payloads (64) delivered to the ISS National Lab in FY19 were from the private sector, representing a broad selection of investigations across diverse sectors.
- Of the payloads delivered in FY19, two included new commercially operated facilities. A third facility was transferred from NASA to the ISS National Lab, bringing the total number of ISS National Lab commercially operated facilities to 17, managed by 10 facility managers.
The ISS National Lab continued to maximize utilization and science return in FY19, setting two new crew-time utilization records. In increment 59/60 (March–October 2019), ISS National Lab R&D set a record for the most hours of crew time utilized in a single increment—and the full fiscal year crew-time hours spent on ISS National Lab R&D was also an all-time high.
Figure 3. Five-year trend in crew-time utilization (hours)
Record-breaking utilization and science return generate value and positive impact for the U.S. taxpayer. Also record-breaking, 89 ISS National Lab payloads were delivered in FY19, with 72% representing private-sector R&D (including two new facilities discussed below).
Figure 4. Five-year trend in payloads delivered
Of these payloads, 36% fall within the ISS National Lab Program areas of Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (16 payloads) and Industrialized Biomedicine (19 payloads). For more information on these Programs, see Section V. Additionally, 34% of payloads were sourced by Implementation Partners (see Section III and Appendix B), illustrating supply-side growth of the LEO economy and the value of new and diverse facilities to support cutting-edge R&D objectives.
Below are selected highlights from payloads launched in FY19 (see many more in Section V).
- Startup company Cemsica pursued better methods to design and manufacture cost-effective membranes for use in gas separation technologies at fossil-fuel power plants and in other applications to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Tympanogen sought to improve the process of antibiotic release from a novel patch to treat wounds and reduce the occurrence and severity of sepsis, or systemic inflammation.
- Budweiser conducted a third research flight—part of a series exploring the effects of spaceflight on barley, a major food source for humans and livestock, in order to produce varieties that are better able to handle stressors such as temperature extremes and water scarcity.
- Johns Hopkins University combined basic research with clinical interventional radiology to improve methods for noninvasively following cells in high resolution in humans.
- Aphios Corporation examined nanoparticle behavior in microgravity, toward the development of precision-targeted drug therapies designed to treat Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
- Nalco Champion studied microbial biofilm behavior as it relates to microbial corrosion, toward mitigation of corrosion in oil and gas lines.
- AstraZeneca explored ways to advance a nanoparticle drug delivery system for therapeutic cancer vaccines.
- The University of California, San Diego conducted the first-ever space-based attempt to study human brain organoids.
- Scripps Research Institute studied the stability of the human virome in spaceflight, which may lead to therapies that influence the growth and maintenance of viruses making up a healthy virome and potentially provide a source of new personalized medicine products.
An additional FY19 success story of note includes validation of new late-load capabilities by commercial resupply services (CRS) provider Northrop Grumman, allowing time-sensitive experiments to be loaded into its Cygnus capsule just 24 hours before liftoff. In the past, all cargo was loaded into the orbital capsule multiple days, sometimes even weeks, prior to launch. This late-load capability will double the launch opportunities for ISS National Lab research partners interested in launching investigations that require late load, such as rodent research payloads or other biological experiments, that previously could launch only on the SpaceX Dragon.
For more info on launched payloads, see the following online resources.
Commercially Operated Facilities
At the close of FY19, 17 commercially operated facilities onboard the ISS National Lab were managed by 10 commercial facility managers. In-orbit commercial facility managers provide ISS National Lab users with operational experience, engineering support, and lab equipment to address user/customer research needs. Two new facilities were delivered to the ISS National Lab in FY19.
- SlingShot, developed by SEOPS, LLC, enables the deployment of CubeSats from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo vehicle after it completes its primary commercial resupply services mission and departs the ISS. Deploying from a higher altitude decreases atmospheric drag on CubeSats and provides a longer operational lifespan. The SlingShot system can also host fix-mounted payloads using Cygnus as a satellite bus for power, attitude control, and communications for longer missions. After undocking, Cygnus moves to an altitude and inclination that are ideal, and the small satellites are launched from the spacecraft to carry out missions that benefit life back on Earth. The demand for small satellites has grown significantly over the last several years due to miniaturization technologies and the availability of deployment from the ISS.
- Techshot Inc.’s BioFabrication Facility (BFF) is the first-ever U.S. 3D bioprinter in space. In its first two years, the initial phase of the BFF will test its ability to print cardiac-like cells. The BFF uses adult human cells (such as stem or pluripotent cells) and adult tissue-derived proteins as its bioink to create viable tissue. Unlike a Russian bioprinting facility that launched earlier in the year and uses magnetic particles to generate cell clusters, the BFF employs a direct dispensing method of gel materials through four different print heads, similar to methods for 3D printing with plastics. Long-term success of the BFF as a human-organ manufacturing system could enable potential medical breakthroughs including reducing the organ donor shortage (113,000 people are currently on transplant waiting lists) and creating patient-specific replacement tissues or patches.
Additionally, a third facility was transitioned to commercial management onboard the ISS National Lab in FY19. Developed by NASA Johnson Space Center’s ISS and Engineering communities in collaboration with the Department of Defense Space Test Program, the Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems (SSIKLOPS) facility was transitioned to new facility manager Craig Technologies. SSIKLOPS is a satellite deployment mechanism that offers LEO deployment options with minimal technical, environmental, logistical, and cost challenges, widening the variety of payloads possible.