The many accomplishments of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) are indicative of its ongoing success in facilitating cutting-edge research and technology development (R&D) in space to benefit humanity and in establishing a robust economy in low Earth orbit (LEO). The ISS National Lab continues to play a crucial role in demonstrating the value of space-based R&D and in building the operational and cooperative infrastructure to drive broad market expansion and set the stage for a smooth transition to the commercial LEO destinations (CLDs) of the future.
“The ISS National Lab saw another record year in 2023, with the most projects delivered in a single year and meeting or exceeding all targets. We are well into the decade of results from research on the ISS, expanding its use in new, exciting, and innovative ways while growing government and commercial partnerships that will continue on commercial low Earth orbit destinations.”
– Robyn Gatens, NASA Director of the International Space Station
FY23 was a record-breaking year in terms of launches and payloads delivered to the orbiting laboratory, signaling an increased and regular cadence of access to LEO through the ISS National Lab. More than 80 percent of ISS National Lab payloads delivered this year were from commercial entities, and $20.5 million of private-sector funding was committed to support ISS National Lab-sponsored projects—demonstrating an increasing interest in space-based R&D among industry users and their willingness to invest their own money in such endeavors.
Additionally, several ISS National Lab users are returning to conduct follow-on research, indicating the value of iterative R&D. To further enable multiphase research, the ISS National Lab partnered with NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division for the first time on a new solicitation to advance critical research on cancer and other diseases. ISS National Lab solicitations have also extended accessibility to new research communities, as more than 70 percent of newly selected projects this year were from new-to-space users.
CASIS continues to foster public-private partnerships that maximize value creation from ISS National lab resources, maintaining longstanding collaborations with U.S. government agencies such as the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In FY23, nearly 40 peer-reviewed publications related to ISS National Lab-sponsored research were published, and of those, more than half were from investigations funded by NSF and NIH to advance fundamental science. Additionally, a growing number of patents and products related to ISS National Lab-sponsored research demonstrates the tangible value of space-based R&D.
To enhance the supply side of the LEO economy, the ISS National Lab continues to facilitate business growth for companies and organizations that offer services related to payload development. In FY23, more than 80 percent of CASIS funding was used to cover researcher costs for such Implementation Partner services, and more than 60 percent of payloads delivered were flown through agreements that allow Commercial Service Providers to supply their customers with easy access to the facilities they own and operate on station.
“Research and technology development on the ISS is hitting on all cylinders. We are privileged to be a part of NASA’s decade of results as we fulfill the goals set forth for the ISS National Lab. The board has never been more excited with the performance of the ISS National Lab team and its cooperative relationship with NASA. We look forward to many more successes in the coming years.”
– David Radzanowski, Chair of the CASIS Board of Directors
Despite challenging capital market conditions in FY23, $230.5 million in funding was raised postflight by startups with ISS National Lab-sponsored projects, bringing the all-time cumulative total to nearly $2.1 billion. To date, CASIS has facilitated more than 1,300 capital introductions between startups and investors in the ISS National Lab investor network.
A robust space industry workforce is vital to the success of the LEO economy, and the ISS National Lab continues to support workforce development through the James A. Abrahamson Space Leader Fellowship program, which helps college students position themselves for careers in the space industry.
In FY23, high-quality content, strategic marketing campaigns, and intensified public relations efforts led to a significant increase in awareness of ISS National Lab activities and successful results. Three new issues of Upward magazine garnered nearly 50,000 online page views, and targeted press releases resulted in more than 17,000 media pickups. Additionally, nearly 900 people attended the 12th annual ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) in Seattle to engage with key players directing the future of R&D in LEO.
This year, CASIS continued to grow and evolve and made great strides in optimizing business systems management and in filling open positions across the organization. CASIS also expanded its board of directors, with the addition of Sol Glasner and former NASA Johnson Space Center Chief Financial Officer Dorothy Rasco.
For a snapshot of ISS National Lab FY23 activities across the U.S., see the map in Appendix C.
As I enter the third year of my tenure with the ISS National Lab, I look back on the amazing accomplishments of the past year. FY23 has been a remarkable year for our organization, marked by exceptional performance, groundbreaking achievements, and a renewed sense of purpose. I am exceedingly proud of the team's dedication and resilience, which have been instrumental in driving success.
Through seamless collaboration with NASA and our industry partners, we streamlined operations and consistently exceeded expectations, delivering more than 100 payloads to station and achieving amazing results that demonstrate the value of space-based R&D. This year, we hosted our most successful ISSRDC to date, attracting nearly 900 attendees and generating unparalleled engagement. The event showcased our industry leadership and solidified our position as a thought leader in our field. This sets a high bar for the future, and we are ready to deliver.
We have maintained a close and productive partnership with NASA, working together to advance our shared goals. NASA’s support has been invaluable in enabling us to execute our R&D initiatives, and it will be critical in facing the challenges that lie ahead. Similarly, nothing we accomplish is without the support of our industry and academic partners.
We are excited about the future of our organization and are confident we can achieve even greater accomplishments in the years to come. We have set ambitious goals for the coming year, and we are committed to investing in our people and our programs to ensure continued success. The future is bright, made brighter by the strength of the ISS National Lab and our collaborations with NASA, U.S. government agencies, and our partners in industry and academia. I look forward to increasing engagement with our stakeholders in FY24 and the many successes ahead as we work to carry out our incredible mission.