At a Glance
- More than 500 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads have launched to the ISS in the last 10 years, including 88 payloads delivered this year.
- A significant number of payloads delivered in FY21 were from private-sector partners, including Colgate-Palmolive, Target Corp., Eli Lilly & Co., Bristol Meyers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Lockheed Martin Corp., and Hewlett Packard Enterprise..
- Top research institutions such as Notre Dame University, Cornell University, Stanford University, and the Palo Alto Veterans Research Institute leveraged the ISS National Lab this year to advance their R&D.
- This year’s nearly 950 hours of crew-time utilization is the second highest in a single fiscal year and almost 200 more hours than in FY20.
The ISS National Lab continued to maximize utilization and science return in FY21. This year, the number of ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads delivered was the second highest number ever in a single fiscal year (88 payloads). This brings the total number of ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads delivered to the space station to 538, representing more than 600 investigations launched in the 10 years of CASIS management. Private-sector utilization of the ISS National Lab has been steadily increasing over the past decade, and more than 75% of the payloads delivered this fiscal year represent projects from industry partners.
In FY21, the ISS National Lab utilized nearly 950 crew-time hours, the second highest number of hours ever used in a single fiscal year. The availability of crew time fluctuates depending on a variety of factors, and the addition of an unanticipated fifth U.S. crew member in FY21 resulted in a significant increase in crew-time hours available this fiscal year. In FY19 and FY20, the ISS National Lab has utilized more than 100% of its NASA-allocated crew time. While the percentage of crew-time utilization this year is a bit lower (76%), the number of crew-time hours used in FY21 surpassed FY20 by almost 200 hours.
In-orbit activities associated with FY21 payloads included the following:
- A project from the University of Maryland awarded through an NSF/CASIS solicitation made headlines when unusual “cool flames” were discovered during in-orbit activities. Results could lead to advancements in future engine production on Earth.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Spaceborne Computer-2 (SBC-2) was installed on the ISS and began operations. Following SBC-1’s successful 1.5-year technology demonstration on the ISS, SBC-2 enables in-space data processing and analysis.
- Global consumer care company Colgate-Palmolive launched the first private-sector oral health care investigation to the ISS. Results could help the company develop more effective products for consumers on Earth.
- Three large pharmaceutical companies (Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lilly and Company) launched investigations aimed at informing drug development.
- ISS crew members worked on an investigation from startup Kernal Biologics that could help lead to new treatments for leukemia; the project was funded by Boeing and CASIS through the Technology in Space Prize in partnership with the MassChallenge startup accelerator.
- The first project from the NSF/CASIS collaboration supporting tissue engineering R&D on the ISS launched; the project is aimed at developing a tissue-engineered model of sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss).
- Several companies continued investigations focused on producing high-quality ZBLAN optical fiber in space, including a project from Physical Optics Corporation (acquired by Mercury Systems Inc. in December 2020) using the company’s Orbital Fiber Optic Production Module.
- Lockheed Martin Corporation (in collaboration with StemRad) tested the performance of the AstroRad radiation shielding vest on ISS crew members.
Payloads are delivered to the ISS as part of Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) and Commercial Crew missions. In FY21, five CRS missions and two Commercial Crew missions launched:
- SpaceX Crew-1 carried the first ISS National Lab-sponsored payload delivered by the Commercial Crew Program—a student experiment from the Genes in Space program.
- SpaceX CRS-21 included several NIH-funded Tissue Chips in Space investigations, a protein crystallization experiment from Bristol Meyers Squibb, a brain organoid investigation from the University of California San Diego, multiple student-led experiments, and a project to map the distribution of bacteria and their metabolites in the ISS.
- Northrop Grumman CRS-15 delivered Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Spaceborne Computer-2, Redwire Space’s Industrial Crystallization Facility, and several projects leveraging the MISSE Flight Facility.
- SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts supported numerous ISS National Lab-sponsored projects while on station, including several NIH- and NSF-funded regenerative medicine experiments, multiple investigations from the private sector, and student-led research.
- SpaceX CRS-22 included investigations from several well-known private-sector companies (Colgate-Palmolive, Target Corporation, and Eli Lilly & Co.), a fundamental physics project from the University of Notre Dame, and an NSF-funded fluid dynamics investigation.
- Northrop Grumman CRS-16 carried an NSF-funded tissue engineering investigation and a Genes in Space student experiment.
- SpaceX CRS-23 payloads included multiple investigations leveraging the MISSE Flight Facility and a new biological experiments facility from BioServe Space Technologies.