The 2023 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) in Seattle was in full swing yesterday with a full schedule of sessions and events showcasing how the space station continues to provide a valuable platform for research and technology development that benefits humanity and enables a robust and sustainable market in low Earth orbit (LEO).
In the morning keynote, Susan Marguiles of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) highlighted examples of NSF-funded research leveraging the ISS National Lab, including an investigation from Case Western University that studied how flames behave in microgravity. The research is featured in our latest issue of Upward, official magazine of the ISS National Lab. “On Earth, we have few opportunities to relieve the phenomenon of gravity, but only for a few seconds or minutes at best,” Marguiles said. “The International Space Station gives us an opportunity to remove gravity’s effects for weeks at a time, which can provide deep insight into fundamental science processes taking place—this is hugely important.”
In a Lightning Talk, Max Haot, president of Vast Space, detailed the company’s plans to launch its Haven-1 commercial space station. According to Haot, the free-flying station would have a three-year life expectancy and would accommodate science investigations, materials research, and in-space manufacturing opportunities.
Yesterday’s technical sessions included talks featuring ways to utilize the ISS for in-space production applications and to improve treatment options for patients on Earth with chronic diseases. In the biology and medicine technical session, Allen Lui of the University of Michigan detailed his experiment that examined osteoblasts in microgravity.
In the physical sciences and materials technical session, Scott Gilley, senior spaceflight payload developer at Tec-Masters, Inc., highlighted the capabilities provided by MaRVIn, an experiment processing system that supports scientific investigations onboard the ISS. Tec-Masters is one of the many ISS National Lab Implementation Partners that provide services related to payload development and integration.
Christie Canaria, interagency policy specialist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), gave a luncheon keynote address to discuss the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The law provides the Department of Commerce with $50 billion for programs designed to strengthen the U.S. position in research, development, and manufacturing of semiconductors (chips used to power everything from electronics to automobiles). A new National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) will also be established, with resources available nationwide. “We’ll all be invited to collaborate under NSTC programs,” Canaria said.
In a panel session moderated by Ryan Prouty, NASA’s ISS Research Integration Office manager, panelists from space industry leaders Space Tango, Northrop Grumman, and Nanoracks discussed the successes and challenges of pioneering LEO and laying the foundation for a thriving space-based economy. “We all play a complementary role in meeting the needs and priorities of the nation and leveraging each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Alain Berinstain, chief strategy officer at Space Tango. “As Implementation Partners, I don’t think we’re competitors; we all bring something different to the table, and we all need to do well. The more we work together in a complementary way, it benefits everybody.”
In a fireside chat, Alessandro Grattoni of Houston Methodist Research Institute and Maurizio Reggiani of Automobili Lamborghini discussed their partnership to launch an advanced materials investigation to the ISS. “The space station is a great platform to test new materials,” Reggiani said. “You can test new tech, send it to the station, and have results faster than you would ever get on Earth.”
Day 2 of the conference ended with an exciting announcement from the ISS National Lab about a new partnership with Privateer Space. Through the partnership, a white label version of Privateer’s Wayfinder, a free online tool that provides real-time data of satellite and debris visualization in space, will be housed on the ISS National Lab website.
There’s more excitement in store today with Day 3 events including the ISSRDC Women’s Networking Breakfast, a panel session on the space workforce of the future, and a luncheon keynote from NASA Chief Scientist Katherine Calvin. Learn more at www.issconference.org and follow along for more highlights from the 12th annual ISSRDC!