Should we calculate the cost of performing an experiment on the ISS? Is there a fee chart available?
There is no need to calculate the cost of doing the experiment on station. CASIS will provide transportation for the experiment to and from the ISS using our allocation from NASA.
Can we request funding from CASIS/ISS National Lab? What are the scopes and limitations for it?
Please note that CASIS is not primarily a granting organization. For this NLRA, CASIS funding is allocated to support project development (principal investigator) costs and mission integration and operations (Implementation Partner) costs. However, funding is limited. As such, during final selection, no-cost and low-cost proposals will receive priority over higher-cost proposals when the expected science return and feasibility are comparable. For the Step 1: Concept Summary, only budget estimates are required. For information on ISS National Lab Implementation Partners, see: www.issnationallab.org/implementation-partners.
The NLRA states the following, “Grant funding is not available for ground-based efforts” and “CASIS funding is to be allocated to support Implementation Partner costs only.”
If I read this correctly, there is no funding for our work in our lab, and only for the industry partner? Am I reading this correctly?
The NLRA statement on “ground-based efforts” means that we will not consider proposals for ground-based work only. A flight experiment that will use facilities on the space station must be proposed. Also, the allocation of CASIS funding is to cover costs for the Implementation Partner only (i.e., the “industry partner” referenced in this question). Other costs such as for personnel in the offeror’s lab, fabrication, characterization, or sample preparation for the experiments would not be covered.
Can you please clarify the funding cap for an individual project for NRLA 2022-3? I am confused as to how much is allotted for an Implementation Partner vs. a PI for this call.
For this NLRA, CASIS funding allocated to support project development (principal investigator) costs and mission integration and operations (Implementation Partner) costs. There is no cap for the amount of funding that can be requested for Implementation Partner or principal investigator costs. However, funding is limited. As such, the level of funding requested will be a factor in the final selection. No-cost and low-cost proposals will receive priority over higher-cost proposals when the expected science return and feasibility are comparable.
Is the $750,000 funding only for the Implementation Partner? If the starting TRL is 4, there are no funds to take it to TRL 7; is that correct? Do we need to find internal funds for that?
TRL raising is within the scope of this NLRA. CASIS funding allocated to support project development (principal investigator) costs and mission integration and operations (Implementation Partner) costs. The offeror’s responsibility is to secure internal or other external funding for all additional costs not covered by CASIS. Funding is limited for this NLRA. As such, the level of non-CASIS funding committed to the project will be a factor in the final selection.
Can you please explain the difference between funded and unfunded awards?
As stated in the NLRA instructions, “all awarded proposals will receive ISS National Lab sponsorship of ISS resource utilization, payload launch to the ISS, in-orbit ISS crew time, data return, and payload return, if required.” A funded award means that CASIS may award a portion of the $750,000 of funding set aside for this NLRA toward project development (principal investigator) costs and mission integration and operations (Implementation Partner) costs. Unfunded means CASIS does not provide any funds toward project development or Implementation Partner costs. Funded and unfunded awards also determine the nature of the agreements to be executed between CASIS and the principal investigator’s organization.
If we request a funded agreement but the value requested is too large for CASIS to award 100% of the amount requested, would we be offered an opportunity to accept a lower amount?
Based on the proposal submitted and the evaluation criteria outlined for this NLRA, CASIS will notify offerors of the nature of any awards after a decision is reached, including any funding provided for Implementation Partner costs. CASIS will also indicate the appropriate agreement (i.e., funded or unfunded) consistent with an award.
For the Concept Summary, do you need a budget breakdown?
Yes, the Step 1: Concept Summary template includes a budget table that must be completed with an estimate of project costs. The budget may be amended if the offeror is invited to submit a Step 2: Full Proposal. Please download the Concept Summary template from the NLRA webpage.
If funds are for Implementation Partners, should we refer to them for budget items? The concept summary budget section is pretty minimal. Not the case for the actual proposal.
The Step 1: Concept Summary budget section is intended to provide a high-level, nonbinding overview of the project budget. If an offeror is new to ISS National Lab research, we recommend a preliminary discussion with at least one Implementation Partner to get a rough order-of-magnitude estimate of what their service may cost for the offeror’s concept. Please visit our Implementation Partner (IP) portal, where each IP presents an overview of their capabilities to enable a quick assessment of which one may best fit offerors’ needs.
Will the requested funding for our Implementation Partner go directly to them, or will it be distributed to the PI and then transferred using a service agreement, etc.? It is unclear to me if indirects can be requested? This becomes particularly important if the funds for the Implementation Partner are distributed to us.
CASIS will execute task orders and/or subcontracts directly with the Implementation Partner on behalf of the awarded principal investigator.
Would government-furnished equipment items like FRAM hardware or GOLD2 connectors be included in “funded items”? I assume LV integration is included in “launch” for example, for external payloads going up in Dragon trunk or HTV EP.
CASIS funding may be applied only toward items and activities that are within the Implementation Partner scope of work and costs. The costs for material items such as hardware or connectors that may be required for fabrication or development of prototypes are expected to be covered by the offeror. The proposal budget template should be used to clearly identify cost items for evaluation by CASIS.
Can NRLA 2022-3 funds be included as part of an SBIR/STTR Phase IIE application (where the SBIR program provides matching funds to the R&D project for technology maturation)? Is there precedence for Phase IIE investment?
From a CASIS perspective only, an award under this NLRA may be used as a matching investment for NASA SBIR/STTR grants. CASIS cannot answer for NASA as to whether or not funds from this NLRA would qualify as matching funds; and, therefore, the offeror should also seek clarification directly from NASA or the other government agency funding the SBIR/STTR. To the best of our knowledge, CASIS has no precedent for a Phase IIE investment.
Eligibility and Compliance
I am U.S. based and a U.S. citizen, is it acceptable to collaborate with a non-U.S. researcher?
As long as the offeror is listed as the principal investigator (PI) and the offeror’s organization is the sponsoring U.S. Entity submitting the proposal, it may be possible to include collaborators from outside the U.S. so long as they are not serving as a co-PI on the project.
If a university or company chooses to include a foreign national on its project, CASIS does not involve itself in an entity’s export control program, particularly regarding ITAR and EAR. We rely on universities and companies to take all appropriate measures regarding export, including following appropriate NASA regulations. Offerors should confer with their organization’s export professionals for guidance.
Can a U.S. company, acting as principal investigator (PI) on a proposal, have a non-U.S. partner (specifically Canada)?
CASIS can only accept proposals from U.S. Persons and U.S. Entities. The PI may have a non-U.S. Person (unless the person is a citizen of a nation on the NASA designated countries list) on the team as a subcontractor or participant, but CASIS cannot directly contract with or award funding to a non-U.S. Person. The offeror has sole responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable U.S. export regulations.
Can a non-immigrant act as PI for a proposal?
The PI on the proposal must be a U.S. Person, as defined by U.S. export laws.
I am in the process of becoming a U.S. Person (permanent resident) expected in just a few months, can I propose?
Until such time as an offeror become a U.S. Person, the offeror’s proposal cannot be considered if the offeror is listed as PI or Co-PI.
Who may serve as a PI on the proposal; is a Ph.D. required? May a graduate student serve as a PI?
For this NLRA, a Ph.D. is not required to be a PI. The PI must be a U.S. Person and affiliated with a U.S. Entity.
Can a PI submit multiple proposals in different emphasis areas?
Yes, a PI can submit multiple proposals, provided the emphasis areas and research topics are different for each proposal. If the proposals are interdependent, this should be noted.
Can a CASIS Implementation Partner apply for funding under this NLRA?
Under this NLRA, CASIS funds have been set aside to cover Implementation Partner costs only. An Implementation Partner that submits a proposal as a PI is still only eligible to request funding that would be applied toward the mission integration and operation costs, for which it must submit a Scope of Work and budget for review and approval by CASIS.
The NLRA solicitation states that no proposals submitted by NASA and/or NASA civil servants will be accepted. Would a non-civil servant NASA contractor be eligible to submit a proposal as the PI, or does any connection to NASA deem a proposal ineligible?
A NASA contractor that is not a civil servant and not directly employed by NASA is eligible to submit a proposal as the PI, subject to the requirement that they are a U.S. Person and affiliated with a U.S. Entity.
If impact testing will be done using a NASA lab facility, when submitting a concept paper, do we need to include them also?
NASA facilities may be used to support proposal test objectives, but NASA civil servants may not be named as PIs or co-PIs. In addition, the NASA center or facility cannot be the sponsoring institution for the proposal or receive a CASIS award. In the Step 1: Concept Summary submission, please indicate the facilities to be used and the proposed roles of any NASA personnel.
Can the ISS National Lab award a PI at JPL; are they eligible to receive research funds?
At present, no. As stated in NLRA 2022-3 “Please note that CASIS will not accept or consider proposals submitted by NASA and/or NASA civil servants.” This exclusion pertains to the participation of NASA civil servants as PI and/or co-PI. NASA civil servants may serve on the support team of a project, but we are not permitted by our Cooperative Agreement with NASA to execute contracts with NASA field centers, including JPL as an FFRDC of NASA.
I am interested to know if government labs are eligible to apply for this opportunity.
Non-NASA U.S. government labs or other agencies are eligible to apply.
Are federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) eligible to apply to this NLRA?
FFRDCs are eligible to apply to this NLRA, provided NASA is not the FFRDC sponsor.
Which Implementation Partner or ISS National Lab facility possesses the resources and abilities for my project?
Please visit our Implementation Partner (IP) portal, where each IP presents an overview of their capabilities to enable a quick assessment of those that may best fit offerors’ needs. CASIS follows a specific process for Implementation Partner selection by the PI after a Step 1: Concept Summary submission is approved. For ISS National Lab facilities, the ISS Researcher Guide Series is a useful starting point, with a more detailed listing available at the Space Station Research Explorer website.
Inclusion of the NASA export links confuse us. Are we required to be in compliance with U.S. export requirements as determined by our export control processes and also the NASA Export Control Processes? If yes, is the NASA approval required prior to Step 1 submission? In what form do you want their approval? Is the NASA Export Approval required for all non-U.S. entities or is it limited to those on the Designated Countries list?
“Are we required to be in compliance with U.S. export requirements as determined by our export control processes and also the NASA Export Control Processes?” —Yes.
“If yes, is the NASA approval required prior to Step 1 submission?” —Yes.
“In what form do you want their approval?” —Please include a copy of NASA Export Control written approval (email or letter) along with the Step 1: Concept Summary.
“Is the NASA Export Approval required for all non-U.S. entities or is it limited to those on the Designated Countries list?” —This depends on the project. Offerors should consult with their sponsoring organization’s export compliance department.
To be considered, proposals must be received from U.S. persons and U.S. entities as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and be compliant with ISS National Lab export control programs and policies.”
At what point in the process is the CASIS export control approval required? Where do we find the ISS National Lab export control programs and policies so that we can determine if we can satisfy them?
CASIS will perform an initial compliance review of the submitted Step 1: Concept Summary. Until export compliance has been confirmed, the proposal cannot move forward in the process. CASIS follows the same export controls as NASA, and the export control programs and policies can be found on the NASA Export Control website: https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/nasaecp/.
The CASIS MANDATORY FLOW-DOWN CLAUSES, GRANT AGREEMENTS states: “Restrictions on Certain Countries, Entities, and Persons; Export Control.
(i) Grantee and any subrecipient at any tier, including subcontractors and sub-awardees, shall not engage in any activities, including financial transactions, with a designated country (or entity or person therein) listed on NASA’s Designated Countries List without consultation and approval from NASA Export Control and the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). Please reference NASA’s Designated Country List at the NASA Export Control Website https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/nasaecp/. This list is regularly updated, therefore please consult the website to ensure use of the most up-to-date list. Grantee is required to follow the most current list of NASA’s Designated Countries.”
“Any activities” is very sweeping and exceeds normal export control regimens. This seems to prohibit even discussions of teaming. Is this the correct interpretation? How do you want this approval documented? Is this required before Step 1?
Conversations can be “deemed exports,” and it is up to the sponsoring organization’s export compliance department to determine if ITAR or EAR regulations require a license for those conversations to take place with non-U.S. Persons. CASIS cannot determine whether any activities can be conducted prior to Step 1. Offerors should consult their sponsoring organization’s export compliance department.
The List of NASA Designated Countries states “All Foreign National visitors require Center Export Administrator review and approval; in addition, Foreign National visitors to NASA born in or citizens of these countries require review and approval by an Agency International Desk Officer and the Headquarters Export Administrator. All NASA mail to these countries requires the concurrence of a NASA Center Export Administrator, in accordance with NPR 1450.10D, NASA correspondence Management and Communications Standards and Style, Appendix E. Foreign National Visitors who are currently citizens of, or born in, Countries Designated by an “X” in Column II will be denied, except in very particular circumstances.”
Does CASIS wish to be involved in our discussions with the identified NASA offices, and does it also wish to pre-approve email to the identified communities? How does CASIS wish us to document approval of every email?
CASIS need not be involved with the NASA export office. If NASA approval is granted, written approval should be provided to CASIS.
Does this program include a mission of astronauts as well?
For this NLRA, CASIS is unable to consider proposals that require testing to be performed on astronauts. Please review NASA’s website for opportunities that may be a better fit for such proposals.
For research teams looking to use parabolic or suborbital flight testing as risk reduction strategies in preparation for the ISS, can Implementation Partner funding be used for this testing?
The Implementation Partner funding associated with NLRA 2022-3 is for projects proposed for the ISS. No funding provision has been made for suborbital flight projects.
Would our sample materials be returned to Earth at any point in time, or would test results be gathered during orbit and retained onboard the ISS?
The timing of sample return is the offeror’s preference. Offerors can both gather data onboard and bring their experiment down for further analysis. Depending on the size of the experiment, it should be able to come down on the next available vehicle after testing.
When would we have to have the materials in your possession for a next phase of testing on the ISS?
That will depend on the complexity of the experiment and the Implementation Partner (IP). Usually, IPs want the materials at least six months prior to launch.
If we have an active antenna element with our test materials onboard, are there any FCC or other methods of coordination needed for transmitting to a ground station on Earth?
CASIS cannot provide regulatory guidance, as this is not our area of expertise. One of our Implementation Partners may be able to assist with relevant information.
Does the ISS National Laboratory support ground stations that would assist in collection of performance data from our advanced materials?
The ISS inherently has the ability to transmit data back to the ground, so unless an offeror is actually testing the viability or performance of the antenna, we would recommend using one of the existing ISS communication bands.
Are the proposal requirements only focused on microgravity, or can a proposal be related to topics such as high-energy radiation?
As discussed in the NLRA instructions and webinar, a proposal to conduct research utilizing radiation levels in the low Earth orbit environment is in scope. The proposal must clearly demonstrate the relevance of radiation to the research as well as the commercial objectives for the results.
Is a project that would research materials for commercial space habitats, rather than an Earth application, eligible?
An applied research proposal targeting a commercial application in space may apply to this NLRA. All proposals must meet the criteria outlined in the instructions for this NLRA.
We have samples from a past space study. Can we ask for support to process and study assay samples to understand space biology?
The emphasis for this NLRA is on proposals for flight projects; however, data-use proposals that are responsive to the stated NLRA criteria will be considered. Please submit a Step 1: Concept Summary for a preliminary evaluation and response from CASIS.
What is the minimum TRL level mandatory prior to submission of this proposal?
As stated in the NLRA instructions, “proposed flight experiments should generally target raising the TRL from 4 or higher to 6 or higher.” These TRL numbers should be regarded as guidelines, not mandatory. The technology or product should be beyond fundamental proof-of-concept and at the stage where testing in space is a key validation step along the pathway to commercialization. The proposal should support the stated starting and ending TRL.
Is the goal of this NLRA to test and mature technologies for commercialization on Earth or to mature technologies for use on the ISS or on future missions? For the latter, it is hard to estimate “market share.”
The stated objective of the NLRA is to test and mature commercially viable technologies or products. The proposal should make the case for commercialization, including whether the application is focused on Earth or space, and how results from the work will provide tangible value for the sponsoring organization and to the nation.
Since CASIS is U.S. focused, can a proposed U.S. system be attached to Bartolomeo?
The Bartolomeo platform is operated by Airbus, a CASIS Implementation Partner. Bartolomeo is available and can be used to host payloads sponsored by CASIS.
Are there established mass and volume restrictions for projects?
There are no established restrictions per se, but offerors should include that information in their Step 1: Concept Summary for evaluation of project feasibility. The ISS National Lab Payload Operations team (Ops@ISSNationalLab.org) can also provide basic guidelines and capabilities. The cargo resupply vehicles that launch to the ISS do have overall mass limits. CASIS is allocated approximately 500 kilograms total upmass for each mission of the current NASA CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) launch vehicles (i.e., SpaceX Dragon and Northrop Grumman Cygnus) for all ISS National Lab projects. CASIS may encounter overall limitations, but there are typically no limitations on individual projects.
Regarding volume of experiments: We may propose testing a unique expandable boom structure to be deployed on the exterior of the ISS. (Mass will be in the 10 kg range.) We do not want to interfere with other objects on the ISS. Are there some physical limitations that we should know about?
For an externally hosted experiment, there are a number of physical limitations depending on the selected attachment site and hosting platform. These limitations may include physical objects, viewing windows for other payloads or the Cupola, or keep-out zones for Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs), robotics, or vehicle docking/undocking. Offerors may consider a scaled-down test to avoid these zones. When submitting a Step 1: Concept Summary, offerors should provide sufficient detail to permit evaluation by CASIS (and by the relevant NASA experts, if necessary).
Do you have preferences or constraints for the timeframe in which proposed hardware must be ready for launch? For example, what if one wanted to propose a project that would be ready to launch in 2024? Would a project that could be ready earlier be given preference?
CASIS communicates a preliminary launch timeframe and requirements after award and execution of agreements.
Your examples of leveraging the ISS to make a product are by-in-large coming from companies that are well established and that use the ISS to refine existing product lines (i.e., adidas, Bristol Myers Squibb, NG). Can you provide some examples in which a relatively unknown company takes an idea from TRL 4 into a tangible terrestrial product by leveraging microgravity?
Orbit Fab and Orbital Sidekick are examples. Please visit www.issnationallab.org/startups-in-space for more examples of startups that have leveraged CASIS support and the ISS, through our partnership with Boeing and MassChallenge, to test products that are currently in various stages of commercial development or available in the marketplace.
How are proposals viewed that involve launching a CubeSat from the ISS?
Proposals that involve CubeSat deployments from the ISS are within the scope of this NLRA.
The current template for the Step 1: Concept Summary provides two pages of material, with sections labelled objectives, concept, benefits, etc. Are we permitted to remove the text in each of these sections and replace it with our own?
Yes, offerors can remove the bulleted lists in the sections and address them with their own text.
Are there any Intellectual Property guidelines or requirements within the CASIS program when working with Implementation Partners or the ISS National Lab?
Yes, there are several clauses in reference to Intellectual Property that are flow downs from NASA regarding Intellectual Property, rights, and data that are a required part of our contracting. Offerors should review the CASIS Terms and Conditions for standard agreements (www.issnationallab.org/user-agreements).
Can you provide examples of successful applications as a guide?
CASIS cannot share prior submissions. Offerors should keep ideas clear and answer the fields so we can best understand the concept, objectives, and outcomes of the proposal. The initial concept submission is meant to be brief; offerors should include more detail if invited to submit a Step 2: Full Proposal.
Will you make available a list of submitters who are not selected?
We do not release information on offerors not selected for award.
Are all submitters (prior to award selection) responding to RFPs listed on a website?
The names of offerors are not available prior to project selection and award determination
What is the typical success rate for proposals in phase 1 and phase 2?
CASIS typically receives numerous Step 1: Concept Summary responses to its proposal requests, most of which do proceed to Step 2: Full Proposal submission. Our expectation is to make up to four awards over the NLRA open periods.
When will applicants be notified whether or not they are invited to submit a Step 2: Full Proposal?
Responses will be provided to offerors within two weeks following CASIS receipt of a Step 1: Concept Summary. The Step 1: Concept Summary submission deadline is November 22, 2021. Offerors are encouraged to submit earlier to allow themselves more time for full proposal development.
When will awards be announced, and when are you expecting to launch?
CASIS anticipates announcing awards within three months after Step 2: Full Proposal submissions close. Subject to flight vessel availability, a launch date depends primarily on the time required for payload integration. This time may vary from about nine months for simple experiments to 1.5 years for complex experiments.
Historically, what are the most common hurdles to small businesses competing for these awards?
As manager of the ISS National Lab, part of the mission of CASIS is to provide access to the ISS for private companies, including small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. Other than the usual challenges associated with businesses in these categories (such as funding, team management and experience, innovative and commercially viable technologies and products, etc.) there are no special hurdles particular to small businesses that preclude their competing for an award under this NLRA. All proposals must meet the scope and criteria outlined in the NLRA application documents.
Is just the webinar video available elsewhere like YouTube?
The video shown in the presentation is not available on YouTube; however, it may be viewed by replaying the webinar presentation available on the NLRA website. Additional information on the companies or missions referenced in the video may be found by searching www.ISSNationalLab.org. Similar videos may also be viewed here: www.youtube.com/user/ISSCASIS.