In FY22, the ISS National Lab continued to facilitate access to the space station for diverse and nontraditional users to maximize the use of this powerful platform to demonstrate the value of space-based R&D. This year, 75 payloads sponsored by the ISS National Lab were delivered to the orbiting laboratory. This brings the total number of ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads delivered in the 11 years of CASIS management to more than 600. Private-sector utilization of the ISS National Lab continues to increase, with more than 85 percent of payloads delivered this year representing projects from industry partners.
In FY22, the ISS National Lab utilized nearly 850 crew-time hours, which is on par with the average over the last five years. The availability of crew time fluctuates depending on a variety of factors. While the demand for payload delivery was comparable to FY21, the ISS National Lab was limited by fewer Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission launches in FY22. There were three CRS launches this year compared with five in FY21, yet the ISS National Lab’s overall utilization of crew time allocated by NASA was only slightly less (73 percent compared with 76 percent last year).
In FY22, ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads launched on three CRS missions (SpaceX CRS-24, Northrop Grumman CRS-17, and SpaceX CRS-25). Astronauts that launched on two commercial crew missions (SpaceX Crew-3 and SpaceX Crew-4) worked on many ISS National Lab-sponsored research projects while on station. The first all-private astronaut mission to the ISS, Axiom Mission 1, launched this year. More than 25 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads were executed by the Axiom Mission 1 crew.
In-orbit activities in FY22 included projects from several large commercial companies:
- Global consumer care company Colgate-Palmolive launched the first-ever private-sector skin health experiment to improve consumer products for better skin health.
- Lockheed Martin Corporation (in collaboration with StemRad) continued to test the AstroRad radiation shielding vest designed to protect astronauts on missions beyond LEO.
- Multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. continued protein crystallization R&D to improve its cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda®.
- Procter & Gamble tested its Tide to Go Pens and Tide to Go Wipes in space to help make Tide products more sustainable and improve products for customers on Earth.
“By leveraging the ISS National Lab, Lockheed Martin and StemRad have worked to validate the AstroRad Vest, a radiation shielding wearable designed to protect astronauts. Through this important technology demonstration, we are pushing the boundaries of innovation in ways that will bring scientific and technological merit to humanity and further business models that can ensure economic vitality in space beyond the ISS.”
– Kathleen Coderre, Deputy Manager, Deep Space Exploration Advanced Programs, Lockheed Martin Company
Startups awarded the Technology in Space Prize that conducted R&D on station this year include:
- LambdaVision continued R&D to develop the company’s artificial retina that restores vision in those blinded by retinal degenerative diseases.
- MicroQuin used 3D cell culture to study the onset and progression of cancer and test the company’s new cancer therapeutic for prostate and breast cancer.
Multiple projects funded by other government agencies launched in FY22, for example:
- Two NIH-funded tissue chip experiments could lead to new treatments for patients on Earth: a University of Florida project studying muscle loss and a University of California, San Francisco project studying immune system function in response to aging.
- An NSF-funded project from Arizona State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studied protein aggregation to improve pharmaceutical manufacturing.
- Another NSF-funded project from the City College of New York studied the structure and stability of foams and emulsions for improved and eco-friendly products.
FY22 in-orbit activities included studies from several academic and research institutions:
- A Clemson University project funded by Target Corporation through the ISS Cotton Sustainability Challenge could help improve commercial agriculture on Earth.
- The National Stem Cell Foundation examined neurodegeneration in 3D culture using cells from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s patients—the first time this has been done on station—to better understand the underlining genetics of these diseases.
- The University of Notre Dame studied bubble dynamics on nanostructured surfaces for applications in medical diagnostics and water purification methods.
In-orbit activities also included student-led research, for example:
“The ISS National Lab has proven to be an invaluable partner that Rhodium Scientific has leveraged to conduct compelling R&D and validate our life science quality assurance processes and capabilities in LEO. In doing so, we are furthering space-based research innovations for our collaborators and bringing a return on their investment that benefits the scientific community and humanity.”
– Olivia Gamez Holzhaus, Founder and CEO of Rhodium Scientific
- A Genes in Space™ student experiment tested a method that could be used to analyze water quality in orbit and remote areas on Earth.
Examples of in-orbit activities for projects supported by Commercial Service Providers include:
- A project from Rhodium Scientific, in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, tested the ability of bacteria to protect DNA during the stresses of spaceflight.
- The Aegis MISSE Flight Facility supported a Massachusetts Institute of Technology project that tested a new aerospace electronic textile and a Georgia Tech Research Institute project that tested a new method to visually assess the integrity of spacecraft materials.