This year’s annual report reflects not only the resilience of our organization but also continued engagement of our partners, collaborators, researchers, and funding agencies. In the face of a pandemic, each of our partners has worked in concert with the ISS National Lab to persevere and adapt despite challenges presented by COVID-19. In fact, we as an organization and as a country have learned to maintain our personal and professional connections by embracing technology and forging new and creative paths to achieve our goals.
FY20 brought with it the opportunity to establish a more formal and collaborative relationship with NASA, one we have embraced to better align our mutual objectives in support of national interests. As our nation’s only orbiting laboratory, the ISS has become both a proof of concept for the value of sustained research initiatives in LEO and a pathfinder for the future space economy. We must act now to benefit from the unique value of the ISS as a research platform. CASIS is dedicated to maximizing return on U.S. investment in the ISS through support of research that aims to improve human health and develop technologies to reinforce U.S. relevancy in the global high-tech marketplace.
In FY20, CASIS has continued to work alongside NASA to ensure ISS National Lab activities deliver value to the nation. Working together, NASA and CASIS have begun implementing programmatic and organizational changes tailored to deliver the ISS National Lab into a new era under CASIS management. In order to streamline business efforts while enhancing ISS National Lab alignment with NASA, CASIS developed new lines of business that provide focus for all future space-based activities. The lines of business address concerns voiced by the independent review report, strengthen CASIS mission priorities, and compliment NASA’s strategic plan.
Definitions for ISS National Lab 2020 Lines of Business
CASIS is committed to supporting the following lines of business. CASIS will prioritize and allocate ISS National Lab resources in accordance with programs and initiatives that support the goals and objectives associated with each line of business.
In-Space Production Applications: LEO-based applied R&D microgravity applications seeking to demonstrate space-based manufacturing and production activities that enable new business growth and capital investment, represent scalable and sustainable market opportunities, and produce reoccurring value with the potential to generate demand for and revenue from access to space.
Commercial Service Provider Utilization: An allocation of ISS National Lab crew time and upmass resources that will be utilized by Commercial Service Providers for the purpose of promoting, enabling, and facilitating their respective commercial demand-generation efforts, thereby contributing to the growth and development of the broader LEO market economy.
Technology Development/Demonstration: Applied R&D, translational science, technology readiness level maturation, and technology demonstration to improve products and/or processes that will produce positive economic impact. All projects with an expressed commercial purpose or intent are included. Most of these will be sourced and/or serviced by Implementation Partners.
Fundamental Science: Peer-reviewed science that will lead to new discovery and knowledge, or advance our current understanding or knowledge, in various scientific disciplines through the use of microgravity, the extreme environments of space, or the unique vantage point of the ISS. Economic output from results is not required.
STEM Engagement and Educational Outreach: Programs, projects, and public-private partnerships that leverage the ISS and space-based research to advance U.S. leadership in space-based R&D and industry-related workforce development. These programs, projects, and partnerships will engage K-12 students and enhance higher education to promote diversity and outreach into underrepresented demographics.
In addition to this strategic evolution of ongoing CASIS activities, CASIS has instituted the establishment of the ISS National Lab User Advisory Committee (UAC). In accordance with our Cooperative Agreement with NASA, the UAC will consist of individuals representing organizations that have formal engagements with either NASA or CASIS to utilize the U.S. orbital segment of the ISS or provide commercial services for the operation of the ISS, including allocations within partner elements or via ISS research sponsored by other governmental agencies. The UAC will provide CASIS with user input and perspective about CASIS management of ISS National Lab resources, including suggestions regarding effective strategies for the utilization of the ISS National Lab as a platform for research, technology development, and education. We look forward to the insights generated by these groups.
The UAC will have five subcommittees:
- Applied Research and Development
- Commercial Service Providers (membership extended to all CSPs)
- Technology Demonstration
- Seven members per subcommittee
- Each subcommittee chair serves as a UAC voting member
- Two-year term for UAC and subcommittee members
CASIS is also actively engaged with NASA to build detailed roadmaps for space-based R&D activities. Each roadmap will be a fluid strategic plan that NASA, the ISS National Lab, and the stakeholder community of other government agencies, private-sector industry, and academia that serve as members of the UAC will inform and review as a tool to:
- Focus multipartner efforts on the sustainable and scalable evolution of fundamental and applied R&D programs that address national priorities leading to the commercialization of LEO.
- Develop efficiencies for coordinating and implementing ISS utilization activities among stakeholders with similar R&D and/or economic interests.
- Serve as a method of transparency in the communication of progress in the utilization of the ISS National Lab for the U.S. taxpayer.
- Build a user community with improved communication focused on each roadmap area to address transitions from fundamental to applied science leading to commercialization.
Fine-Tuning ISS National Lab Project Selection
In the second half of FY20, CASIS began to investigate, outline, and develop a new proposal evaluation construct that focuses on leveraging external evaluators to provide feedback on the scientific, technical, and business portions of a proposal. The new process is intended to improve the fidelity and transparency of CASIS proposal selections, including the ability to provide tailored feedback for proposals not selected. Under the new evaluation construct, all proposals will be evaluated by at least two, and in most cases three, external (non-CASIS) evaluators. After conducting individual reviews, external evaluators will meet to determine a consensus rating for each proposal, documenting the strengths and weaknesses to justify a final evaluation rating.
In addition to the external evaluation, CASIS will continue to do an implementation feasibility and operations evaluation to assess each project’s operational risks and the appropriateness of the ISS resource allocation, such as upmass, downmass, crew time, and facility utilization. Finally, proposals that have an expressed commercial intent will be evaluated from a business perspective using new criteria developed with the assistance of an external consultant. The new evaluation construct will be implemented in the first quarter of FY21.
There have been some exciting developments in the space industry this year, particularly with respect to commercial activities in LEO. At the end of FY20, preparations are now in place to deliver crew members to the ISS from U.S. soil for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in July 2011. A transition to a reimagined commercial crew program undoubtably provides additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery for investigators using the ISS National Lab. However, we understand that the establishment of the program may require adjustment and take time to be successful, particularly with respect to future utilization and other supply chain logistics. The ISS National Lab continues to adjust accordingly and support our partners, investigators, and colleagues in the space community to the best of our ability, embracing our Core Values.
As the emerging space industry evolves into an established research and business environment over the next decade, we envision the ISS and the ISS National Lab as fuel for the engine of economic development. CASIS is equipped with the tools and experience to serve as the recruiting center for commercial R&D in space—inviting new collaborators and research partners to experience the unique advantages of conducting R&D in microgravity.
CASIS Core Values
Passion for the Mission
We are inspired and driven by the ISS and the incredible opportunity ahead of us. We understand and are humbled by what others have sacrificed to build the ISS. We embrace the role that the ISS National Lab plays in shaping the future of space research by maximizing the impact of this incredible laboratory.
We are committed to our customers and understand that each and every one of us contributes to the user experience. As the conduits to the space station, we aim to do everything in our power to improve the customer journey and focus on our customers’ objectives.
We believe in the power of inclusion and recognize that there is greater strength in working together to solve complex problems. We collaborate and build networks, harnessing the best ideas from inside and outside the organization. We treat our coworkers, partners, customers, and vendors with respect and appreciation.
We recognize the great responsibility that we have to maximize the use of the ISS to benefit life on Earth. We demonstrate good stewardship of our resources and put the mission above all else when making business decisions. We are accountable for our actions and expect our users, partners, and vendors to share in these values.
We believe in cultural awareness, teamwork, and the power of inclusion. We are not all the same, which is one of our greatest strengths. Through collaboration and network building, we channel the best ideas from diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences both inside and outside the organization. We acknowledge the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals, and we respect our coworkers and external community.
We convey professionalism in all that we do. We insist on a culture of respect, communicating openly and transparently, using appropriate channels, and recognizing that words and actions matter, even behind closed doors. Each employee is an ambassador of the ISS National Lab and contributor to the ISS brand, and we all share in the responsibility to create a positive culture externally and internally. Each member of the organization should be a role model for others.
Commitment to Excellence
We take pride in our work and aspire to be the best we can be. We adhere to the highest standards of our professions and adopt best practices. We embrace new ideas and explore innovative ways of working, and we recognize that true excellence requires that each individual be able to work and learn in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, and acceptance. When faced with obstacles, we deepen our resolve to collaborate and persist with optimism.