At a Glance
- Supply-side activities in FY19 include the establishment of an Implementation Partner Consortium and the addition of three commercially operated facilities to the ISS National Lab.
- To generate ongoing demand for space-based R&D, we continued to support multi-year, repeat collaborations (i.e., Sponsored Programs) with commercial and non-NASA government entities to augment funding for ISS National Lab projects.
- Several new research solicitations complemented traditional business development and Sponsored Programs to build a diverse user base.
- Our investor network grew by 25%, with more than 600 capital introductions made to date.
The ISS National Lab supports R&D with benefit to life on Earth, as well as private-sector activities that support this R&D, to return value to the nation and strengthen the foundation for the growing LEO marketplace. As the most significant global collaboration in human history, the ISS is a thriving proving ground for a variety of partnerships in R&D as well as commercial space. The ISS National Lab enables flexible partnership models that allow organizations to leverage the unique attributes of the ISS that are most relevant to their mission. These include research competitions, investment opportunities, and commercial services expansion. In FY19, continued growth in collaborative efforts helped expand ISS National Lab R&D activities, attract new users, and increase external R&D investment.
As access to LEO and the ISS has increased, new private-sector service providers and facility operators have emerged to support the needs of diverse spaceflight R&D users. In January 2012, we began formalizing partnerships with these businesses and are continuing to improve how we facilitate the matching of ISS National Lab users with these providers, also called Implementation Partners.
In FY19 we officially established the ISS National Lab Implementation Partners Consortium, for the purpose of supporting the ISS National Lab in its mission to maximize the use of the ISS to advance scientific research, technology development, and education for the benefit of life on Earth. Consortium members serve as subject matter experts in spaceflight R&D and expert collaborators, sharing specialized scientific, technical, and business expertise that helps inform the activities of the ISS National Lab. Together, the Consortium and ISS National Lab work to expand mutually beneficial business opportunities and collectively advocate the value of the space-based research on the ISS.
Consortium members also had the opportunity to attend two ISS National Lab Implementation Partner workshops, hosted to encourage dialogue and feedback about how we connect users with providers and how we can better enable provider business development activities in the marketplace. Workshop sessions focused on a range of topics, including the utilization of ISS resources, industry trends, and legislative developments.
Finally, new Implementation Partners in FY19 include:
- Aerospace Applications of North America (AANA), which operates the International Commercial Experiment (ICE) Cubes platform, located on the ISS Columbus laboratory—an international, commercially operated, multipurpose facility.
- Craig Technologies, which is now managing an ISS National Lab commercially operated facility (see Section II).
- Rhodium Scientific, which provides support services to life science companies and academic researchers conducting space-based research.
See Appendix B for a full list of ISS National Lab Implementation Partners or visit
The ISS National Lab is not only a destination for spaceflight R&D; it is a multi-user platform for commerce, education, engineering, science, and technology—for which there is increasing demand. As an innovation platform that can solve big challenges, the ISS National Lab has developed a successful Sponsored Program model that enables sponsor organizations to ask new questions and explore key variables using the ISS as a tool in their innovation portfolio. The model attracts third-party funding (either whole or partial) from private industry, academia, and non-NASA government agencies to support research competitions for projects that seek to use the ISS National Lab to solve cross-cutting challenges.
Evolution of the ISS National Lab Sponsored Program model has resulted in a growing legacy of multi-year partnerships that involve bigger and more innovative collaborations. Many of these public-private partnerships and collaborations focus on addressing key challenges in the Program areas of Industrialized Biomedicine and Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (see Section V for more information on these Programs). Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and regional incubators have successfully used the Sponsored Program model, which is flexible to meet the needs and budgets of varied partner organizations.
In FY19, multi-year, repeat collaborations with the MassChallenge business accelerator program, Boeing, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continued, bringing the total independent funding committed through Sponsored Programs to date to more than $50 million, which flows either through the ISS National Lab or directly to principal investigators.
In addition, several formal calls for research proposals in specific R&D focus areas complement traditional business development and Sponsored Programs to build a diverse user base. Through these larger programs and individual outreach to new customers, we are accelerating success for a diverse range of ISS National Lab users, providing tangible return to U.S. taxpayers. For more information on ISS National Lab research competitions, see Appendix A and issnationallab.org/solicitations, and for more information about outreach and stakeholder engagement, see Section VI.
To better streamline use of specific resources amidst this growing demand, the ISS National Lab Resource Utilization Planning System (RUPS) enables optimal use of flight, increment, and facility allocation. RUPS continues to improve its function to compare each resource capability during a defined timeframe against total resources required by all projects in the same time increment—and we continue to refine how we use this information to guide business development efforts toward acquiring projects that fill utilization gaps. Using RUPS, we can adjust our business development targets in real time as research requirements mature, facility options evolve, and the payload manifest grows.
During FY19, the ISS National Lab delivered strong results in the buildout of its ecosystem of private-sector investors—as well as its activities to connect investors with startups looking to do research or develop products on the ISS National Lab and to build out businesses that leverage LEO capabilities.
Figure 5. Four-year trends in Investor Network activity
At the end of FY19, the ISS National Lab network included 157 investors, up 25% from FY18. This network consists primarily of venture capital (VC) firms followed by corporate venture investors, angel investor organizations, accelerators, private equity markets, and selected financial intermediaries. We estimate that investors in the network are managing more than $420 billion in assets.
Figure 6. Investor Network breakdown
In line with the ISS National Lab’s responsibilities to identify appropriate funding sources and match qualified research projects with such funding sources, the ISS National Lab has now made more than 600 capital introductions with venture and corporate investors, connecting these investment entities with 57 companies/startups in the ISS National Lab ecosystem. More than 50% of such introductions were made between summer 2018 and end of FY19, via targeted matchmaking and investor events, including annual Space Investment networking and pitch sessions hosted in conjunction with the ISS Research and Development Conference. The feedback received from the ISS National Lab startup community indicates high value added from such connections, and while not all the resulting funding activity details have been publicly disclosed, our internal estimates indicate that these introductions have supported and complemented financing strategies that have raised an approximate cumulative value of $280 million in capital.