At a Glance
- R&D onboard the ISS National Lab advances human knowledge and commercial innovation here on Earth.
- Microgravity causes changes in biological systems and alters fundamental physical phenomena, enabling novel experiments.
- Low Earth orbit is a valuable environment for accelerated testing of technologies and materials in the extreme conditions of space.
- The unique orbit of the ISS allows Earth and space observational studies from a strategic vantage point.
- Spaceflight benefits R&D in drug discovery, nanotechnology, materials science, tissue engineering, agriculture, Earth observation, technology development, and more.
Human space exploration missions quickly revealed that microgravity, or weightlessness, had profound and unique effects on physical and biological phenomena. Understanding these effects is critical for human exploration and pioneering space—but the study of these effects also advances knowledge on Earth. The International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory is a permanently crewed research facility, observatory, and engineering test bed that can provide powerful insights into fundamental and applied scientific investigations.
These advantages of the ISS National Lab benefit a wide variety of R&D focus areas.
For example, spaceflight R&D allows the long-term study of underlying biological and physical processes whose effects are masked by dominant gravity-dependent forces. These advantages of the ISS National Lab benefit a wide variety of R&D focus areas, including pharmaceutical development, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science, tissue engineering, disease modeling, agriculture, Earth observation, atmospheric research, energy source generation, combustion, fluid dynamics, student educational initiatives, and many more.
Specific features of the space environment include:
Microgravity, or weightlessness, which alters many observable phenomena within the physical and life sciences. Systems and processes affected by microgravity include surface wetting and interfacial tension, multiphase flow and heat transfer, multiphase system dynamics, solidification, and fire and combustion. Moreover, microgravity induces a vast array of changes in organisms ranging from viruses and bacteria to humans, including global alterations in gene expression and three-dimensional aggregation of cells into tissue-like architectures.
Extreme environmental conditions, including exposure to extreme heat and cold cycling, ultra-vacuum, atomic oxygen, and high-energy radiation. Testing and qualification of materials, sensors, and component sub-systems exposed simultaneously to these extreme conditions have provided data to enable the manufacturing of long-life reliable components used on Earth as well as in the world’s most sophisticated satellites and spacecraft.
A unique vantage point, based on the location of the ISS within low Earth orbit. The ISS orbits at an altitude of approximately 250 miles (400 km), and its path covers more than 90% of Earth’s population. Observations from this orbiting platform can provide unique spatial resolution and variable lighting conditions compared with the sun-synchronous orbits of typical Earth remote-sensing satellites, allowing insight into diverse fields ranging from atmospheric modeling to agriculture.
The ISS National Lab is committed to changing how the world accesses, understands, and participates in space-based R&D.
The ISS National Lab is committed to changing how the world accesses, understands, and participates in space-based R&D, supporting nontraditional users from academia, industry, and government institutions in addressing real-world issues, from healthcare crises to consumer product improvement to educating our youth about cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math.
Recent investigations include R&D from academic institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Emory, and MIT—as well as payloads from Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble, Merck, and Eli Lilly and Co. These organizations are improving our quality of life here on Earth by using space to advance product development, improve drug design, study human health, and support educational programs.
The ISS National Lab provides project management support and assistance in translating ground-based research goals into flight-ready payloads.
Benefits of working with the ISS National Lab:
In addition to cutting-edge science and technology, the ISS National Lab provides project management support and assistance in translating ground-based research goals into flight-ready payloads. Moreover, the ISS National Lab enables customized marketing and media opportunities to showcase researchers, organizations, and payloads—including a “Space Is In It” product endorsement. See Partnering for Innovation for more details.