FY23, the ISS National Lab continued to play a critical role in establishing a robust LEO economy by increasing demand for space-based R&D among diverse users. Industry, U.S. government agencies, and academic institutions are committing increasing amounts of their own funding to support R&D on station, demonstrating a growing recognition of the value provided by LEO-based research platforms. This year, $26 million in external, non-NASA funding was committed to support specific R&D projects sponsored by the ISS National Lab (a 44% increase over last year), bringing the total amount of such funding committed to date to more than $285 million. Furthermore, CASIS funding for newly selected projects in FY23 was matched 5:1 by committed funding from non-NASA, third-party entities and the selected institutions themselves—an increase over last year’s ratio of 4:1.
To advance R&D in key areas identified as having high potential to develop into sustainable markets, CASIS issued several targeted ISS National Lab research announcements (NLRAs) this year. Of the 42 projects selected for flight opportunities in FY23, more than 60 percent were through NLRAs in the following strategic focus areas:
- Technology advancement (14 projects)
- The in-space production applications areas of advanced materials (3 projects) and tissue engineering and biomanufacturing (2 projects)
- Workforce development and higher education (9 projects)
The ISS National Lab continues to work closely with NASA on these strategic focus areas, and in FY23, three ISS National Lab-sponsored projects were selected through NASA in-space production applications research announcements. This year, the ISS National Lab also partnered with NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division to announce Igniting Innovation: Science in Space to Cure Disease on Earth, a new ISS National Lab solicitation seeking multiflight translational research to address the goals of the President’s Cancer Moonshot initiative and advance studies on other human diseases.
In FY23, CASIS continued to foster public-private partnerships that maximize value creation from ISS National Lab resources. CASIS has maintained a powerful multiyear collaboration with NSF to advance critical fundamental science through space-based research. CASIS and NSF issued two annual joint solicitations this year: one in tissue engineering and mechanobiology (3 selected projects) and one in the physical science area of transport phenomena (6 selected projects).
Nearly 70 percent of newly awarded projects this year were from new-to-space users, demonstrating the ability of ISS National Lab solicitations to successfully draw in new research communities. Projects from new-to-space users include an investigation by Rolls-Royce to test how ceramic matrix composite materials perform in the space environment, a project by CisLunar Industries USA to demonstrate its in-space foundry technology, and a Princeton University study of microgravity’s influence on bacterial biofilm transport. Additionally, new-to-space startup Machine Bio Inc. was awarded this year’s Technology in Space Prize, funded by CASIS and Boeing in partnership with the MassChallenge startup accelerator program. Machine Bio seeks to leverage the ISS National Lab to validate proprietary technology that synthesizes protein from a DNA template in a single step—a valuable capability for future space-based R&D.
“The world is increasingly looking to space for answers to questions about improving human health, and the National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) has been funding important work through the ISS National Lab since 2018. Findings from each mission are used to refine questions for the next about how and why neurodegeneration occurs in diseases like Parkinson’s and progressive multiple sclerosis. NSCF is delighted to be funding this innovative science at the frontier of new therapeutic discoveries.
- Paula Grisanti, CEO of the National Stem Cell Foundation
This year, selected investigations from return users include a National Stem Cell Foundation study using stem cell-derived brain organoid models to study neurodegenerative diseases, a project from SyNRGE to produce antifungal compounds that may prevent a disease that threatens banana production worldwide, and a Johns Hopkins investigation that builds on previous cardiac tissue chip research.
(For a full list of FY23 solicitations, see the ISS National Lab Previous Opportunities page. For a full list of all selected ISS National Lab-sponsored projects, see the ISS National Lab Project Pipeline.)
The ISS National Lab continually brings together subject matter experts and thought leaders from industry, academia, and U.S. government agencies to discuss how to maximize use of the orbiting laboratory to advance strategic focus areas toward sustainable markets. This year, the ISS National Lab hosted two workshops at ISSRDC 2023—one on the broad area of in-space production applications and another specifically focused on biomanufacturing. During the workshops, the ISS National Lab and NASA shared progress in these critical areas and gathered input from attendees to guide the future vision to move these areas forward.