The ISS National Lab continues to increase demand for space-based R&D among a broad range of users to expand the LEO economy and return value to the nation. Opportunities to conduct research through the ISS National Lab are a significant benefit to industry, U.S. government agencies, and academic institutions, as evidenced by their willingness to commit funding to support space-based projects. This year, CASIS funding for newly selected projects was matched at a ratio of 4:1 by committed funding from non-NASA, third-party entities and the selected institutions themselves. To date, nearly $260 million in external, non-NASA funding has been committed to support specific R&D projects sponsored by the ISS National Lab.
Targeted ISS National Lab research announcements (NLRAs) drive demand in areas with the greatest potential to develop sustainable markets. Of the 46 projects selected for flight opportunities in FY22, more than 40 percent were through NLRAs in strategic focus areas:
- Technology advancement (10 projects)
- The in-space production applications areas of advanced materials (2 projects) and tissue engineering (1 project)
- Digital engagement and higher education (7 projects)
The ISS National Lab works in close alignment with NASA on these strategic areas, and in FY22, two projects were selected through the NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge, and five were selected through NASA’s In-Space Production Research Announcement.
“The ISS National Lab and NASA are working together to enable U.S. industry to develop cutting-edge manufacturing technologies that benefit from microgravity to produce amazing medical therapies and advanced materials for use on Earth. Support from the experts at the ISS National Lab is critical to the success of the in-space production applications portfolio and continued U.S. leadership in LEO.”
- Kevin Engelbert, NASA Portfolio Manager for In-Space Production Applications
The ISS National Lab continues to build on its powerful multiyear collaboration with NSF to advance fundamental research and establish the knowledge base for future applied R&D. This year, CASIS and NSF issued two annual joint solicitations: one in tissue engineering (5 selected projects) and one in the physical sciences area of transport phenomena (7 selected projects).
In FY22, the ISS National Lab also partnered with Estée Lauder on the ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics, and the company funded two projects selected through the challenge. Additionally, the ISS National Lab continues to support innovative startup companies identified through the MassChallenge accelerator program. This year, two projects were awarded the Technology in Space Prize, funded by CASIS and Boeing in partnership with MassChallenge.
(For a full list of FY22 solicitations, see Appendix A. For a full list of all selected ISS National Lab-sponsored projects, see the ISS National Lab Project Pipeline.)
“The NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge and our ISS National Lab-sponsored project provided an opportunity for our team to push the boundaries of tissue engineering. To use the ISS to successfully mature engineered human tissue containing vascularity would be a significant stride forward in regenerative medicine and would help improve understanding of how the space environment affects the human body.”
- Tony Atala, Director, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Of the newly selected projects this year, 60 percent were from new-to-space users, demonstrating the success of ISS National Lab solicitations in reaching new research communities. Projects from new-to-space users include two studies from Wake Forest University to produce thick, vascularized liver tissue for regenerative medicine applications and an investigation from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to test volumetric additive manufacturing for organ production in space. Investigations from return users include a project from HySpeed Computing to demonstrate the real-time streaming of ultra-high-resolution imagery from space and an experiment from the University of Connecticut to advance commercial in-space manufacturing of nanomaterials for cartilage tissue repair on Earth.
To inform ISS National Lab strategic focus areas and direct the future of LEO commercialization, the ISS National Lab continually gathers input from thought leaders and subject matter experts. In FY22, the ISS National Lab hosted a second phase of the Biomanufacturing in Space Symposium. The symposium sought to develop a national roadmap for R&D advancing space-based biomanufacturing toward commercial product development and clinical application on Earth. Additionally, two workshops were held in conjunction with ISSRDC 2022—one on the broad area of in-space production applications and another specifically focused on biomanufacturing. Through these workshops, the ISS National Lab and NASA shared progress in these key areas and gathered input from the space community to establish a future vision to move these areas forward.