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.
Eligibility and Compliance
Will I be eligible if I have a registered business entity in the U.S.?
We need more information than the registered entity to determine eligibility. Please submit a Concept Summary. We can provide assistance and instructions in submitting the appropriate documentation. The principal investigator (PI) or project lead and any Co-PIs must be “U.S. persons,” and the business entity must be a “U.S. entity,” per the reference in the solicitation.
If a PI has a current CASIS grant, could we apply to this NLRA?
Yes, this could be an opportunity for offerors to expand a project they are already working on. Offerors that have a research project and would like to incorporate a STEM education component, or offerors with a STEM education project they would like to expand, can apply to this NLRA.
Does the submitting organization have to be a university or school? What are the requirements for organizations? Can an LLC doing STEM work submit a proposal?
Entities other than schools and universities are eligible to submit proposals in response to this NLRA as long as the PI is a U.S. person and the organization is a U.S. entity. We welcome all types of organizations to submit a proposal.
Can postdocs be the project lead, i.e., PI, for this solicitation?
Yes, a postdoc can be a PI, but the goal of the project must be STEM education rather than advancing research.
Would Space Grant Consortia be able to apply?
Yes, but the institution submitting the proposal must be compliant with all requirements as defined in the NLRA.
I do not have a program, but is there a possibility to become an evaluator?
Those interested in becoming an ISS National Lab subject matter expert reviewer can visit our website to submit their information to become a reviewer: www.issnationallab.org/research-on-the-iss/request-for-science-reviewers.
Can academic institutions partner with one another or with other centers such as a Challenger Center or K-12?
Yes, those partnerships can be impactful. Space Station Explorers partner programs are eager to partner to leverage resources for new products and programs. Offerors interested in partnering with a specific Space Station Explorers partner program should let us know, and we may be able to assist.
Could you elaborate more on the requirements and expectations for the partnership process?
There are many partnership types. Offerors interested in partnerships should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get more information on the type of partnership of interest and provide the proper guidance.
What kind of organizations work with international students? Is that specified on the NLRA website?
Universities, nonprofit organizations, and commercial entities have all worked with international students on past projects. Principal investigators would need to make those connections on their own initiative; CASIS would not be involved in the process. The U.S. organization would have sole responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable U.S. export regulations.
I am an undergraduate research student in the U.S., but I am not a U.S. citizen. Is it a requirement?
Offerors are required to be a U.S. person, as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations at 22 CFR §120.15. Individuals that are not a U.S. person are welcome to coordinate with their organization or university to be part of a team, but individuals cannot be the project lead if they are not a U.S. person. CASIS deals directly with the U.S. person, and the organization would be obligated to handle licensing or other export control requirements that might be necessary during the project.
Would a U.S.-based PI be allowed to subcontract some of the project’s work to a non-U.S.-based company?
As long as the offeror is listed as the PI and their organization is the sponsoring U.S.-based entity submitting the proposal, it may be possible to include collaborators from outside the U.S. Additionally, any subcontractor, foreign or domestic, must comply with mandatory flow down clauses. If the collaborator is a Co-PI, they must also be a U.S. person.
If a university or company decides to use a foreign national on its project, the entity is responsible for ensuring they meet all export control requirements, including but not limited to ITAR and EAR. Universities and companies must 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: www.nasa.gov/oiir/export-control
Can someone with H1B visa apply?
Unfortunately, no. The PI on the proposal must be a U.S. person, as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations at 22 CFR §120.15. The PI may have a non-U.S. person on the team as a subcontractor or participant (as long as the person is not a citizen of a nation on the NASA designated countries list), 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.
May a group of international students submit an online engagement educational proposal or any other type of proposal?
No, a group of international students by themselves could not submit a proposal. The PI and submitting organization are required to be a U.S. person and a U.S. entity. It would be possible for a group of international students to be part of a team lead by a U.S. person and U.S. entity, as long as the U.S. organization is willing to take responsibility for the export licensing and follow all export regulations to be consistent with U.S. laws, policies, and regulations.
I have an LLC registered in the U.S., but I am nonresident, could I apply for the grant?
The PI and any Co-PIs must qualify as “U.S. persons,” and the business entity must qualify as a “U.S. entity,” per the reference in the solicitation.
If my personal company does business with China, am I disqualified?
CASIS funds are from U.S. taxpayers and must go to U.S. entities. Disqualification is dependent upon whether funding from China is supporting the company or project and whether the project results are to be shared with China. Details on any involvement with China should be included in the Step 1: Concept Summary, so CASIS has a better understanding of the proposed project plans.
I am the founder (who is non-U.S. person), but my company is a U.S. entity, the PI would be a U.S. person who is employed by the company. Would we be eligible to apply for the grant?
It should be acceptable, but it may depend on if the proposal contains sensitive information that would be subject to EAR or ITAR regulations. Once the Step 1: Concept Summary is submitted, we can discuss it in more detail if necessary.
If we have non-U.S. citizens that want to work on the project, how should we refer to them if we cannot name them? For example, do we refer to them just as “collaborator”?
Non-U.S. individuals cannot be listed in leadership roles such as PI or Co-PI. If a university or company decides to use a foreign national on its project, the proposing entity must adhere to all export control requirements, especially 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.
Are prior awardees eligible for this round of funding?
Yes, prior awardees will be considered.
Is this grant for nonprofits only? Can a for-profit company apply for the grant?
The NLRA is not just for nonprofits, any U.S.-based entity may apply.
What do you mean by programming?
Programming is a set of activities with a common aim or objective. For example: Zero Robotics programming engages middle and high school students in coding competitions that utilize SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) on the space station. Orion’s Quest programming leverages datasets and research being done on station to develop curriculum.
Do you have a diversity or inclusion statement?
One of the requirements stated in the full research announcement is a requirement to target and engage underserved communities and students.
Can we utilize current Space Station Explorers programming technologies to support K-12 engagement or only new programming?
We encourage offerors to reach out to our Space Station Explorers partner programs to collaborate on projects. These partner programs have background knowledge and resources available as well as some partnerships already in place. We also recommend engaging with ISS National Lab Implementation Partners, as applicable.
What does digitizing an existing program mean?
Currently, a lot of great programming content is available that could be reinvigorated into the digital age. There may be content or curriculum that could benefit from a website to promote collaboration or that increases accessibility by employing new ways to reach students.
Can the education program be established leveraging the existing data from ISS experiments?
Yes, there are some excellent datasets available, and we encourage offerors to utilize the datasets and content that already exist. For example, NASA’s Gene Lab has amazing datasets, and projects could be developed utilizing this data.
If I have a flight experiment on the ISS, can I submit a proposal for that experiment?
Yes, offerors can utilize the work being done on station to develop an educational program. For example, the Orion’s Quest program leverages datasets and research being done on station to develop curriculum.
Can you elaborate on higher education; would it include master’s and Ph.D. programs?
Yes, we welcome the opportunity to work with undergraduate-, graduate-, and Ph.D.-level students in U.S. academic institutions.
If we only require crew time, are there guidelines around that parameter?
Offerors with proposals that require crew time should indicate in their Concept Summary how much time they think would be required, and we can provide feedback as to whether it is feasible to support the level of crew effort.
Is there a recommended or required project start date?
Our goal is to announce awards and begin the contracting process in the August-September timeframe. Project start dates will likely be in the October-November timeframe.
Can you talk more about what the ISS National Lab is looking for in terms of evaluation and outcome tracking?
It varies from program to program. For example, evaluation and outcome tracking may be different for projects that engage students directly versus an online engagement tool. Additionally, we look for our programs and partners to align with NGSS standards, which are Common Core standards that meet strict educational requirements.
Can a program apply for a new look/angle based on a prior K-12 experiment that answers new questions, or must the work be original entirely?
Yes, offerors can build on something taking a new angle as long as it is within the scope of the NLRA. Prior programming done at the K-12 level, or even a flight experiment at the K-12 level, could be expanded to reach new audiences in underserved communities, particularly with an emphasis on digital engagement or extending the programming into higher education.
Would programs that focus on undergraduate and graduate research initiatives but include outreach efforts to local high schools be a better fit than a singular focus on one education level?
There is no set number of students a program is required to reach; however, programs should aim for the largest reach possible. Focusing a program on multiple grade levels and utilizing digital engagement are some ways to increase reach. Additionally, providing higher education students the opportunity mentor high school students is an excellent way to increase outreach.
Does the project need to be self-sufficient, or can astronauts interact with it, and what are the limitations?
There are some limitations that we must consider, but a project does not need to be self-sufficient. Offerors with proposals that require crew time should indicate in their Concept Summary how much time they estimate would be required, and we can provide feedback as to whether it is feasible to support the level of crew effort.
Regarding education for STEM including home schooled students, would this be applicable toward the work and experiments for the ISS National Lab and CASIS?
Yes, many of our educational programs work with nontraditional students, whether it’s in an informal education setting or a home school setting.
I would like to submit a proposal for an experiment in microgravity and on Earth. Would it be acceptable to include both in one proposal, or should they be submitted separately?
If offerors have an experiment that requires resource allocation for a flight and also includes a ground control experiment, or programming to be executed on the ground with students based on the microgravity component of the experiment, it is acceptable to submit these components in the same proposal.
I am looking for the astronauts to show and describe systems on the ISS such as the power and life support. Would an hour of the astronaut’s time be reasonable?
It depends on how in depth the astronaut would need to get and how many video takes would be required. For Step 1: Concept Summary submission, offerors should use their best judgement to estimate the amount of crew time needed. The estimate can be further refined in subsequent Step 2: Full Proposal development. That said, one hour seems to be a reasonable starting point.
Would CASIS cover the cost to develop an app?
Yes, development of an app would fall under digital engagement and would be within the scope of this NLRA.
What capacity are the students from K-12 expected to participate within the research?
Current ISS National Lab K-12 educational programming involves some programs that have a very broad reach and are intensive and require hundreds of hours of student participation. Other programs are smaller and require less student time but still bring great value for establishing science literacy in the next generation. This NLRA is aimed at increasing digital engagement in the K-12 community and higher education, and programs must target underrepresented demographics.
Since historically the focus has been on K-12, would programs that promote a college program for SSEP while promoting outreach to local high schools with partner programs for engaging them in a CubeSat initiative be a better fit than just focusing on higher education student bodies?
The target audience for the STEM education program is at the discretion of the offeror, but the offeror must clearly define the target audience to be engaged and describe how the program will be developed to increase the breadth and depth of STEM education for that audience.
Would CASIS require an organization to obtain an IRB for a beta-study/Phase 1 in Human-Computer-Interphase study?
Yes, an IRB would be required, but note that access to crew and approval of crew as test subjects is likely beyond the scope of this NLRA.
With few astronauts of color, how can we request that as part of the proposal to address diversity?
It is within the purview of offerors to note increasing diversity and inclusion as an objective of their concept and to identify key components of their proposal that would be required or requested to support program goals.
Would you have panoramic images of the interior of the ISS for us to use?
The ISS National Lab does not have panoramas of the ISS. Panoramas have been created in the past by stitching together multiple photographs. Images of the ISS interior are available directly from NASA at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/multimedia/index.html.
Is there the potential to submit and be awarded a project that spans more than one year? Is there a limit to the number of years allowed in one submission?
It is anticipated that the period of performance will be no longer than three years from date of award.
What are the evaluation criteria for Step 1: Concept Summaries?
Offerors should ensure that the proposed concept is focused on STEM education, is feasible, and aligns with the scope of the NLRA. The specific evaluation criteria are available in the “CASIS Proposal Evaluator Instructions” and can be downloaded on the NLRA 2022-7 webpage by clicking on the “Download Step 2 Forms” button.
If we apply for a proposal two different ways, what kind of focus do you want to see beyond just the convenience of separating the age groups in an after-school program?
If the focus is digital engagement, then there would be separate content for each age group. Offerors would need to include details in the proposal on the planned content for each age group and the budget amount to be dedicated to each.
If the current high school/undergrad program I run is only one month long, is it within the scope of this NLRA to submit a new track for which student engagement would essentially be for only one month versus throughout a calendar year?
Yes, offerors can propose a concept for a one-month project. We would look at the number of students reached and the impact.
Will astronauts be available to assist in creating video and educational products onboard the ISS, and who would we talk to in order to get approval?
Yes, astronauts are available. The offeror’s Concept Summary would need to include details such as the scope of work that would be required of the ISS crew, how much time is required, and the content the astronauts would cover. Astronauts are not permitted to endorse products, but if offerors would like ISS crew members to show something on station or talk about an educational component, then that could be considered under this NLRA. For planning purposes, include in the Concept Summary the timing on when the crew time would be needed (e.g., is it in the next few months or the next school year?).
Can the proposal be for a flight opportunity for a payload that has already been developed?
Yes, however, in the Concept Summary, offerors must include details on what they want to accomplish so that we can determine the feasibility for conducting the work on station. Offerors working toward developing a payload for station will need to work with an ISS National Lab Implementation Partner. For more information on identifying an Implementation Partner, email Ops@ISSNationalLab.org or visit www.issnationallab.org/implementation-partners to browse, select, and contact an Implementation Partner.
For video on the ISS, it is difficult to put time and detail in a three-page proposal. How do we include it all without going over the page limit? Can we leave parts out?
Offerors proposing a video series with different segments should briefly state the topics of the segments and provide a summary in the Step 1: Concept Summary. The Step 2: Full Proposal is where offerors can provide additional details on the proposed project. However, it is not recommended to leave any required content out of the Concept Summary.
Is it reasonable to ask for something to be attached or deployed outside at a particular place in orbit?
Yes, however, this type of concept would need to be developed working with an Implementation Partner and could potentially be expensive, as it would be more complex to execute. Please keep in mind that for this NLRA, we are not looking for science to be the main focus but rather the STEM education component.
Is it reasonable to ask for food to be harvested, consumed, and the flavors assessed?
It is possible but not recommended. Any flight experiment requiring the crew to consume agricultural products grown and harvested on station will require review and approval by the NASA Human Research Program, a NASA Institutional Review Board, and/or other NASA boards of inquiry for experiments seeking to use human subjects. Permissions from multiple programs within NASA are required in reference to what the crew consumes, and an ISS National Lab Implementation Partner would be required to assist in developing the concept. Fresh food production experiments have been conducted in space (for example, using the Veggie platform, which is used to harvest plants that are consumed), but these required extensive development and review for flight. This would be a project where offerors would need to partner with an Implementation Partner that is familiar with the Veggie platform, as there are many steps to be taken to be sure the plants that are grown are safe for the crew to consume, and the plants must be free of any microbial contamination.
Is deploying a CubeSat that focuses on STEM education for an undergraduate program a possibility?
Yes, that would fall within the scope of this NLRA. There has been previous work done in this area, and it would require working with an ISS National Lab Implementation Partner to develop the concept.
What is the temperature difference between day and night in space?
The temperature on the side of the ISS facing the sun can reach 121°C. The side facing away from the sun can reach as low as -157°C, resulting in a thermal difference of almost 300°C.
Do the proposals need to span the entire three-year period of performance? What if the proposal is for a project that is a one-time offering?
No, projects do not have to span the entire three-year period.
Are there specific digital tools you have in mind for Higher Ed engagement? For instance, NASA GeneLab?
We are not requesting any specific digital tools, and we look forward to receiving ideas from offerors. NASA GeneLab is a great example of a possible data set and resource to use to amplify a previous .
What are some areas to focus on for the proposal? Is there anything that would especially stand out?
CASIS is looking for a diverse project portfolio and welcomes ideas from offerors. Digital engagement is everchanging, and CASIS wants to stay current. Current examples of trending topics are in the areas of social media and YouTube. CASIS looks forward to receiving innovative ideas.
You mentioned Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other online courses. Those types of projects would have a big audience. How do you feel about smaller projects that would reach about 10 students (URMs) per year?
Offerors are welcome to submit a proposed project for a smaller audience. Those few students may have an extraordinary experience, and so that might merit the proposal rising to the top based on the evaluation. However, offerors may want to consider adding a digital component that has capabilities to reach a larger audience.
Can diversity focus on girls, or do you want to focus more on socio-economic and cultural diversity?
There is no preference, and any of those diversity categories are acceptable. Proposed projects should focus on servicing underrepresented and underserved populations.
Does the project need to be entirely digital? What if it has a digital (computational) component but is an on-campus, in person experience most of the time.
No, proposed projects do not have to be entirely digital, but digital components are recommended to reach a larger audience.
Do you have any advice on where to start? I am a student wanting to engage with this project as I am interested in space and a future space career.
It is wonderful that students are interested in this NLRA, and they are welcome to apply, but a recommendation would be to find champions such as teachers and educators who might assist in enhancing the proposed project.
I know the focus of this award is for expanding digital engagement, but would individual student-driven science research projects be considered?
If the focus is on a student-driven research project, we recommend considering ways to amplify that approach by adding additional programs instead of just having a single student-driven science project.
What percentage of Step 1: Concept Summaries do you anticipate inviting to submit Step 2: Full Proposals?
We do not have a defined percentage, but applications must meet the criteria outlined in the solicitation. CASIS typically receives numerous Step 1 responses to its research announcements, and many proceed to Step 2.
Do we need to have an Implementation Partner if we submit an experiment for flight that is both K-12 and undergraduate/graduate based?
For Step 1 submissions, offerors do not need to have an Implementation Partner (IP) identified, but an estimate of the cost for an IP is required. However, offerors are highly encouraged to work with an IP if they plan to submit a proposal for a flight experiment.
Can an applicant apply to multiple NLRA solicitations for one program to meet STEM objectives and technology or research objectives?
Offerors can apply to multiple NLRAs. It is important to clearly state the within each application.
Where can we find a list of previously funded projects?
A list of previously funded projects can be found in our online database at www.issnationallab.org/projects. The list can be sorted by project type, and there is an education category to browse only education projects.
Can you describe the evaluation process?
CASIS has a scoring rubric and evaluation guide used by internal CASIS staff and external subject matter experts in the evaluation of proposals. Offerors have access to the scoring rubric and evaluation guide and are encouraged to review this information before submitting a proposal to make sure to address all criteria.
Can an organization submit more than one proposal?
Yes, an organization can submit multiple proposals, provided the emphasis areas and research topics are different for each proposal.
Can “one, two” proposals be submitted? Meaning, could the team submit a proposal with initial elements in Y1 and then a second proposal that builds upon the initial in Y2 or Y3?
Yes, more than one proposal can be submitted. However, if the are all related to one project, focus, or objective that require the others for completion, please submit them in one proposal.
What makes a proposal stand out during the review process?
The proposal evaluation criteria are available on the NLRA webpage. Proposal evaluators will follow a scoring rubric that is clearly defined. Offerors should review the proposal guidelines and evaluation criteria early to be sure to include all the required information in their proposal in the order stated in the guidelines.
What is the likelihood of a proposal being selected for award?
Selection likelihood is dependent on the number of meritorious proposals received and the different proposal types that are submitted.
Universities charge Facilities and Administrative cost rates (F&A); is that allowed in this NLRA?
Yes, F&A overhead is allowed. CASIS recognizes any federally approved indirect cost rate that has been negotiated between an offeror and a U.S. government agency; or if no rate exists, CASIS will apply a de minimis indirect cost rate of 10%. Satisfactory evidence of the negotiated/approved rate must be in or accompany the proposal.
Who pays for the Implementation Partner? Does it come from the submitted budget?
Offerors proposing a flight project can include Implementation Partner costs in their funding request. However, be mindful of the funding limitations stated in the solicitation. This limitation is inclusive of all costs.
What is the recommended maximum budget request?
The total available funding for this NLRA is $600,000, and CASIS anticipates awarding four to eight projects. The maximum funding request per proposal is $100,000.
Can reduced Facilities and Administrative cost rates (F&A) be used as a match?
Yes, reduction in F&A can be used as in-kind contributions or matching funds. In-kind contributions are looked at favorably within submissions.
Will you fund more than eight projects if some of them are low cost or only require ISS/crew time?
It is possible that CASIS could make more than eight awards if we receive lower-cost or no-cost projects that only require allocation or crew time. There is no limit to the number of awards, but there is a limit on available funds.
Is there a minimum amount of funding that should be requested in order not to be taken as a frivolous request?
We anticipate receiving some proposals that will require no funding or a very small amount of funding. For example, some offerors may not require CASIS funding because they have established a partnership that is supporting the work.
Is the budget of $600,000 per year, or inclusive of all years of performance?
The total available funding for this NLRA is $600,000 for four to eight projects to be accomplished over three years.
Is funding awarded as a one-time payment or multiyear payment?
It depends on the timeline of the project, but most projects have multiple payments throughout the duration of the project based on project milestones. The grants provide funding based on incurred direct and indirect costs.
From a budget standpoint, what is the value of upmass and crew time?
As part of the CASIS Cooperative Agreement with NASA and as a public service, the cost associated with upmass and crew time is covered by the U.S. government and NASA. This cost does not need to be included in the project budget. Offerors would need to include the requirements for those resources, but the cost does not need to be included.
Can funding be used to build programming facilities, i.e., construction of facilities for ground-based space programming?
Funds could potentially be used for facilities development; however, it unlikely such a project would be selected. We are looking for projects that are ready for student engagement and already have the facilities required to provide that engagement.
What is the average grant amount?
CASIS has $600,000 dedicated to this NLRA and anticipates awarding four to eight projects. The suggested maximum is $100,000.
Can you please define what is considered as project costs versus implementation costs?
Project costs are those costs for the organization and the principal investigator to perform the proposed project; these are the internal costs for supplies, materials, labor, and anything else associated with the project from the organization. The implementation costs are those costs for the Implementation Partner to perform its services and provide its materials to prepare the project for flight and performance on station. If there is no Implementation Partner, there are no implementation costs. Most flight projects will need an Implementation Partner to provide research, engineering, and technical services as well as specific hardware or payload facilities.
Will the funding support development and installation of exhibit-housed interactives?
Yes, if the exhibit’s intent is to reach the targeted audience, it would be in the scope of this NLRA.
Is there a cap on the indirect rate? If the rate is 60%, do you accept that rate or do you have a maximum?
If it is a federally negotiated rate, CASIS can accept the rate as long as it can be covered within the total proposed budget.
Could funding be used to pay for programming staff or is it only for budgeting materials needed to complete the program mission?
There is no prohibition on funds to be paid for domestic or foreign staff as long as export control requirements are observed.
Can salaries be included in funding requests?
Yes, salaries can be included in proposal budgets.
Do you want the indirect rate table with Step 1 or Step 2 submissions?
Include indirect rates in the Step 2: Full Proposal submission.
Is there a budget template that outlines allowable expenses?
Yes, a budget template is available for download on the NLRA webpage for Step 2: Full Proposals. The Step 1: Concept Summary template includes a budget table for estimated costs.
Would it be acceptable if the funding is not needed until summer 2023 (even though it would be in 2022)?
Yes, that is acceptable; the milestone schedule could be structured to support that timeline.
To give you options for funding levels, should we present full budgets for each level, or just explain how it could scale up or down?
Yes, we accept budgets that reflect different funding options. Offerors should include an explanation in their Step 1: Concept Summary.
In this round do you hope to distribute most funds to higher ed proposals vs K-12? Do you have a rough breakdown of how you think funds will be disbursed to the different education levels?
We do not have a goal to direct more funding to higher education. Proposing for either university-level or K-12 students is acceptable.
Are open source or free projects preferred for 2022 STEM project ?
Open source resources, freely available programs, and evergreen content is preferred for submissions.