Following are answers to questions frequently asked about previous ISS National Lab announcements on this topic. This page will be updated with any new questions received at the informational webinar for this latest NLRA.
What is the budget range for proposals?
Funding through this NLRA is allocated for Implementation Partner costs only. All other project costs will be covered by the offeror. There is no cap on the amount of funding that can be requested for Implementation Partner costs; however, funding is limited. The level of funding requested will be a factor in the project selections, so projects with no cost or low cost will receive priority over high-cost proposals.
Is there any quota to award grants to small businesses?
No, there are not.
Since this NLRA only supports Implementation Partner costs, where is funding supposed to come from for direct costs for an academic lab?
Direct costs from academic labs could come in the form of university or external funds used by the Principal Investigator to cover salaries and materials. Funding could come through other solicitations with other government agencies; for example, NSF or DoD STTR programs. These examples require forward work to write proposals and be accepted before submitting to CASIS.
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 the 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?
Funding may be requested for an ISS flight project; however, please note that CASIS is not primarily a granting organization. While offerors may request funding for implementation of their flight project, please note that funds available for grants are limited and may not be provided. Offerors should plan to cover the cost of researcher time and materials. Costs of transportation to and from the space station are covered as part of the CASIS Cooperative Agreement with NASA. Any grants awarded will be minimal and will depend on the number of meritorious applications received, the availability of funding or other resources for that solicitation’s open period, and programmatic priorities. No-cost and low-cost proposals will receive priority over higher-cost proposals when expected science return and feasibility are comparable. For Step 1: Concept Summaries, only a budget estimate is required.
For information on ISS National Lab Implementation Partners, see: www.issnationallab.org/implementation-partners
Can you please clarify the funding cap for an individual project for this NLRA? I am confused as to how much is allotted for an Implementation Partner vs. a PI for this call.
For this NLRA, CASIS funding is to be allocated toward Implementation Partner costs only, and all other cost items will be covered by the PI. 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.
Can you please explain the difference between funded and unfunded awards?
A funded award, in the context of this NLRA, means that CASIS may award a portion of the set-aside funding toward Implementation Partner costs. Unfunded means CASIS does not provide any funds toward Implementation Partner costs. Funded and unfunded awards also determine the nature of the agreements to be executed between CASIS and the PI’s organization.
For the Concept Summary, do you need a budget breakdown?
Yes, the Step1: 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 offeror’s 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.
Eligibility and Compliance
Can a Principal Investigator be a non-U.S. Person and have a non-U.S. partner?
CASIS can only accept proposals and award projects to U.S. persons at U.S. entities; however, the proposing Principal Investigator may have non-U.S. persons on the team as subcontractors or participants, but the Principal Investigator and Co-PI must be U.S. persons. The offeror has sole responsibility to ensure compliance with the U.S. export laws, and it is recommended that proposing organizations consult with an export professional prior to submitting a proposal.
What would be the minimum employee requirements for a startup company?
There are no restrictions or requirements on the number of employees that would prevent an organization from submitting a proposal. However, to enter into an agreement with CASIS, organizations must be registered with SAM.gov and have a DUNS no. and a CAGE code.
Can a U.S.-based medical student apply as a Principal Investigator and submit a proposal?
Proposing Principal Investigators must be U.S. persons, but CASIS does not quantify in terms of a certain education level. CASIS does want to make sure that offerors have the resources, if selected, to execute and follow through, because projects awarded through this NLRA should lead to commercialization or be on a pathway toward commercialization.
If a Principal Investigator currently has a CASIS grant, could that PI also apply to this NLRA?
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 export professionals for guidance.
NASA’s Export Control Program: https://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/nasaecp/
NASA Designated Countries: https://www.nasa.gov/oiir/export-control
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.
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.
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.
Can the ISS National Lab award a PI at JPL; are they eligible to receive research funds?
At present, no. As stated in this NLRA, “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.
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 the needs of the project. 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.
Is working with multiple Implementation Partners more advantageous than working with a single Implementation Partner?
This decision will be made by the offeror and their project team. CASIS recommends that the PI select the Implementation Partner(s) that provide the best fit for addressing the projected scientific and/or technological requirements for the payload. The operational and technical feasibility evaluation will assess how well the proposed technical solution and concept of operations are addressed by the PI team and their selected Implementation Partner(s). Technical solutions may be designed and executed by teaming with a single or multiple Implementation Partners, but this decision will be made by the principal investigator and the proposing team, not by CASIS.
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 the above question). Other costs such as for personnel in the offeror’s lab, fabrication, characterization, or sample preparation for the experiments would not be covered.
Contracting and Compliance
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 submitted Step 1: Concept Summary. Until export compliance has been confirmed, the concept 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 with their sponsoring entity’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.
It was stated that the investigations might come from either the physical or life sciences—does this statement preclude technology investigations that use the method and perspectives of social sciences instead?
Projects are not limited to just life sciences or physical sciences. In general, experiments should validate technological advancements and rapidly advance development of products through access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This NLRA seeks projects focused on technology advancements that can only be achieved by raising the TRL on the ISS or in LEO. Please note that although the ISS crew is available to aid experiments and run demonstrations, but the interaction of the crew as test subjects is not within the scope of this NLRA.
I am interested in submitting a proposal to test a new technology on the ISS but need assistance in producing a space worthy design, would an Implementation Partner be able to assist?
Implementation Partners typically provide their own hardware and facilities to support offeror investigations, and there are numerous capabilities on the ISS that support technology demonstrations. If there is a facility or capability that is missing to support an offeror’s research, Implementation Partners can provide expertise in helping to modify COTS hardware or assist offerors in the development of new hardware to support their investigation.
If a product is already or nearly in commercial production, can it still be considered for the NLRA process?
Yes, if an offeror is looking to make new strides or modifications, be more efficient and effective, or to break into a new market such as the space market, CASIS is interested in seeing those types of concepts.
How long can the experiment test on the ISS? Would it be an up/down mission at approximately one month or could it potentially be a longer study, up to six months?
ISS experiments can range anywhere from hours to days to months to years. CASIS would require a strong rationale for the need for those longer-duration experiment runs. CASIS will evaluate the proposal to determine if enough space is available for the length of time required. Through the CASIS feasibility assessment process, experiments have been approved to be on the ISS for as long as six months or longer.
What are the specific safety requirements for experiments conducted within the ISS?
There are numerous safety requirements to operate an experiment on the ISS. Many of these requirements were created to keep the crew and the vehicle safe from any anomalies. For example, lithium-ion batteries can be flown; however, there is a testing program those batteries must go through to ensure they are safe for use on ISS. Implementation Partners are available to help offerors through that process and also assist with any other hazardous materials that may be involved in an experiment. The ISS National Lab Payload Operations team is always available to answer questions at email@example.com.
Will CASIS accept proposals for projects involving human biological tissue samples?
Yes, but it would depend on where the tissue samples come from and if consent has been provided. CASIS must ensure all regulatory requirements are met.
Would a working prototype be required as a proof of concept before a proposal could be submitted for the project to work on the ISS?
From an operational perspective, offerors would not necessarily need a functioning prototype until the payload development or payload integration phase. Offerors should aim to have a working prototype to perform ground tests on prior to sending their experiment to the ISS. From a scientific perspective, showing preliminary results may be required when proposals go through the review process.
Would a proposed project requiring testing external to the ISS be acceptable?
Yes, that would be acceptable.
With regards to commercialization, can you specify the difference between the NLRA commercialization goal and LEO commercialization goal from the ISS Program Office?
The NLRA commercial goals should be focused on improving a product, use of the ISS for the purposes of demonstration, or use of the ISS to raise the TRL. If the outcome of a project is to market or produce a product or data that would then be sold to generate revenue from, that would fall under the LEO commercialization efforts through the ISS Program Office.
Would it be acceptable to propose to reuse our hardware that has previously been on the ISS and was funded through a NASA grant?
Yes, it would be acceptable to use hardware that was previously sent to the ISS that was funded by NASA. CASIS request that in the proposal, offerors document which hardware it is and who the current owner of the hardware is if it is not the offeror. If the offeror is not the owner, CASIS would need to contact the current owner to ensure the hardware is available at the time of the proposed experiment.
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.
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?
That is the offeror’s preference. The offeror can both gather data onboard and bring the 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.
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. An offeror’s 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. Responding proposals 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 offeror’s 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, an ISS National Lab 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 CASIS 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-sponsored projects. CASIS may encounter overall limitations, but there are typically no limitations on individual projects.
Do you have preferences or constraints for the timeframe in which proposed hardware must be ready for launch? For example, would CASIS give preference to a project that proposes to be ready for launch earlier than another project?
CASIS communicates a preliminary launch timeframe and requirements after award and execution of agreements.
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.
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.
Should we have an Implementation Partner in place at the Step 1: Concept Summary phase?
CASIS encourages contact between applicants and Implementation Partners at the Step 1: Concept Summary phase in order to obtain information that may be useful for budget and schedule estimates.
Can an applicant submit more than one proposal?
Yes, but the concepts should be distinctly different.
Approximately how long is the time between submitting a Step 1: Concept Summary and receiving an invitation to submit a Step 2: full proposal?
Typically, the average time to invitation to submit a full proposal is 2-3 weeks. However, depending on the volume of concept summaries submitted, it may take a bit longer. CASIS encourages offerors to submit the concept summary early to have additional time to prepare the full proposal.
If a terrestrial Earth TRL is at 9.0, and if the product could be converted to a space adaptable product, what would be the minimum TRL?
There is no required TRL level, but the desirable TRL for flight experiments would be to target raising the level from 4 or higher to 6 or higher. Please reference the scope and goals of the NLRA for more information.
I have an advanced technology focused on radiant energies and was wondering how I would identify a mentor to assist me in implementing the project.
A good course of action is to submit the concept summary, which is 2-3 pages, and CASIS could assist you in identifying Implementation Partners. CASIS follows a specific process for Implementation Partner selection by the PI after a Step 1: Concept Summary submission is approved. Offerors can visit the CASIS website to view a list of Implementation Partners, and any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there any special consideration for very early-stage companies with exciting technologies that might not score high on TRL levels?
The NLRA provides guidance on TRL levels, but it is just guidance and should not stop offerors from submitting concept summaries. However, in the proposal, offerors should be clear on the projected TRL level at project completion and discuss the prior work that has been done to support the technology. It is also important to include the market analysis for the technology and how it is going to benefit humanity.
Is there a recommended or required project start date?
The goal is to announce awards for this NLRA in May of 2023 and execute contracts in June of 2023. The projected start date for awarded projects would likely be June/July 2023.
How will intellectual property be managed for projects awarded through this NLRA?
Each awarded entity owns its intellectual property whether the partner is NASA or any other government agency. CASIS does have a number of flow down terms and conditions, and those are always included with the Step 1 materials that are available for download for each 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 flowdowns provided as part of the zipped file for the NLRA.
Can you provide examples of successful applications as a guide?
CASIS cannot share prior submissions. Offerors should keep their 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; more detail can be provided in the 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 Step 1 and Step 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 offerors be notified whether or not they are invited to submit a Step 2: Full Proposal?
Responses will be provided to offerors within 2 weeks following CASIS receipt of a Step 1: Concept Summary. Refer to the NLRA webpage for the Step 1: Concept Summary submission deadline. 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.