At the ISS National Lab, we have been chartered by Congress and NASA to facilitate access to the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory for private industrial development and innovation in business. Much like our sister institutions, Los Alamos, Sandia, and Brookhaven, do with their facilities; we help private companies take advantage of the unique resources and environments aboard the Space Station to conduct basic research and engage in applied product development.
Our partnerships include major companies like Cobra Puma Golf, Procter & Gamble, Merck, and also startups, like those competing for the the ISS National Lab Sidecar Prize in the MassChallenge business accelerator. All of these companies see access to the microgravity or radiation environments aboard the space station as key to developing new knowledge that will give them a competitive advantage, often regarding the fundamental forces masked by gravity that affect product manufacturing and shelf life.
For example, Procter & Gamble is using space station research to better understand how colloids – microscopic mixtures of one substance evenly dispersed in another – form and collapse. Common examples of colloids include milk, whipped cream, liquid detergents, and airborne dust. P&G intends to apply their studies of colloids in microgravity to manufacturing and process improvements here on the ground across a wide variety of everyday products.
the ISS National Lab also recognizes that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for increasing the economic benefit of the station by enabling space-based research for people and groups that have not traditionally been involved with the space program. With our “ecosystem model” of business development, the ISS National Lab is working in geographic centers with native clusters of academia, businesses, non-profit oranizations, and trade associations that can readily incorporate the ISS National Lab as an available asset.
After successfully piloting this model in Boston, the ISS National Lab is collaborating with the Silicon Valley Space Center to join the unique entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the Bay Area with the unparalleled capabilities of the space station. On October 18th– 20th, the ISS National Lab will be “Launching Commercial Space Enterprises” at the Atmel Corporation’s headquarters in San Jose with a special workshop that will illustrate the compelling business models for the ISS and provide an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to collaborate and brainstorm new products and services that could emerge from access to the ISS National Lab.
NanoRacks, based in Houston, Texas, is a burgeoning company that has already done just that. They built the first commercial research platforms on the space station using the CubeSat form factor, created by Dr. Bob Twiggs. NanoRacks also sells integration and design services to a wide variety of customers from all over the world, ranging from schools in California to scientists researching terpenes for commercial products.
After opening remarks from our new President and Executive Director, Colonel Gregory “Box” Johnson, veteran pilot of the STS-134 mission that delivered the single largest science instrument to the ISS, discussion sessions will cover such topics as synthetic biology, additive manufacturing, remote sensing, technology risk reduction, and space economic development. We’re excited to see what the same community that brought us much of the digital technology that has defined American life in the 21st century can do with the Space Station!