At a Glance
- The ISS National Lab played a key role in advancing a commercial product to market, which demonstrated tangible FY17 success from spaceflight R&D.
- Sixteen peer-reviewed journal articles in FY17 detailing findings from ISS National Lab R&D lent credibility and prestige to the research platform.
- ISS National Lab outreach to promote these successes resulted in both mainstream media coverage and a record-breaking year for social media engagement.
The value of the ISS National Lab as an unparalleled innovation platform has been recognized by a diverse community of users from private industry, academic institutions, and other government agencies. This value is exemplified by current data demonstrating the potential value and impact of the CASIS-selected ISS National Lab R&D portfolio, the formation of powerful new partnerships aimed at solving big challenges, and an increase in external funding supporting ISS National Lab Sponsored Programs.
The value of the ISS National Lab is especially evident through the tangible R&D successes realized in FY17; for example, the 16 peer-reviewed journal articles published this year detailing results from ISS National Lab-sponsored research and the advancement of a commercial product to market as the result of an ISS National Lab project. To herald these successes, CASIS has continued to evolve its communications strategy—through increasing outreach and a tremendous boost in social media engagement—resulting in increased visibility in both print and digital media.
Business Integra Technology Solutions (BI Tech), a company whose 100% commercially funded payload launched to the ISS in FY17, was able to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of their radiation-tolerant single-board computer platform, the SG100, from TRL 7 to TRL 9 as a result of their ISS National Lab project. For satellite developers and investigators using the ISS for R&D, the SG100 will remove limitations in processing capability imposed by the radiation-hardened computer platforms currently used in LEO—improving processing capability 12-fold at 40% of the cost.
The market for space processors is approximately $1 billion per year, with more than 50% of that market addressable by this technology. Achieving TRL 9, which was possible only through testing in LEO, has allowed the company to begin actively marketing the device.
“I’ve been flying hardware to the ISS for more than 15 years, and CASIS and the ISS National Lab have made the process of certifying hardware and getting it into space substantially easier. Without the ISS National Lab, we would have had to pay someone to launch our payload on a satellite, or we would have had to launch a satellite of our own. The comparative cost of that is in the millions of dollars and many months of development time. That’s where CASIS came in—our proposal was approved, we delivered our hardware for launch, and we were able to install, power up, and run benchmarking programs to prove capability. If you want to test something and prove that it’ll work in space, the space station is the way to go—there’s no better way to do it.”
Trent Martin, VP Aerospace Division, Business Integra Technology Solutions | President, Sci Space
Peer-reviewed journal articles are a critical means to disseminate findings from R&D initiatives and often lend credibility, prestige, and merit to investigators, hypotheses, and even research platforms such as the ISS National Lab. Moreover, a strong publication base often precedes commercial investment in a particular sector. Sixteen peer-reviewed articles in FY17 formally announced preflight and postflight findings from ISS National Lab-sponsored research. For additional details about these publications, please visit the ISS National Lab research publication database.
Public and Media Engagement
To trumpet the many successes in FY17, CASIS has continued to evolve its strategy for communicating ISS National Lab activities with target audiences. By continuing to revamp communications strategy for promoting ISS National Lab science, successes, and innovations through digital social media, CASIS has fostered an active and online community to amplify the value and benefits of our orbital laboratory; for example, ISS National Lab social media eclipsed 1 million engagements this year alone.
Additionally, the successes shared in Upward, magazine of the ISS National Lab, continue to demonstrate the value and impact of the ISS National Lab to an expanding readership, including the creation of a new website in FY17 to host individual articles in an optimized digital layout. Continued production of digital content, including videos showcasing ISS National Lab activities, complements the success of the CASIS social media and magazine outreach strategies to foster advocacy for space science and the ISS National Lab among diverse stakeholders while increasing public visibility.
More than 6,000 news mentions of CASIS and the ISS National Lab in FY17 resulted from targeted outreach and expanded visibility. Highlights from this media coverage:
An ISS National Lab payload on predictive pathogen mutation was featured in Forbes, CNN, Huffington Post, US News & World Report, and Wired.
ISS National Lab rodent research was covered in The New York Times and PBS NewsHour.
A recent publication detailing the success of an ISS National Lab study on flatworm regeneration was covered by Yahoo! Tech, Smithsonian magazine, CNET, CBS News, Fox News, and Engadget.
ISS National Lab research videos highlighting the launches in the third quarter of FY17 garnered more than 675,000 views.
Operational Successes: The ISS National Lab MMCG Program
Individual project successes in the academic and commercial arena are also enabled by streamlined operational efficiencies in ISS National Lab programs. Many successful experiments in space over the past three decades have demonstrated the value of LEO for crystallization of organic and inorganic molecules, and the ISS National Lab Microgravity Molecular Crystal Growth (MMCG) Program, established this year, enhances the commercialization potential of low Earth orbit and the ISS for ongoing studies in this area.
CASIS-sponsored organic crystal growth investigations began launching to the ISS National Lab in 2014, and many have yielded high-quality crystals for analysis. Most projects focus on structural determination for drug design, but others aim to improving drug formulation, manufacturing, and storage.
For example, Merck scientists performed an ISS National Lab experiment this year to improve methods to purify an anti-cancer drug, Keytruda, which could possibly lead to a better method of delivery to patients. In the case of pharmaceutical researchers such as Merck, multiple flight opportunities to the ISS National Lab in rapid succession are providing the opportunity for investigators to adjust experimental design and maximize success through iteration.
Decreased time from proposal submission to flight also allows companies with fast-paced R&D goals to obtain results in a timely manner. For example, an FY17 project from The Michael J. Fox Foundation flew to the ISS National Lab less than one year after initial proposal submission—in fact, from molecule identification to flight, the process took less than three months.
The ISS National Lab MMCG Program aims to provide:
- Opportunities for molecular crystal growth investigations on every cargo resupply launch to the ISS.
- Rapid turnaround of samples—a 90-day cycle time from molecule identification to crystal return from the ISS.
- Hardware options that minimize preflight optimization steps through use of standard laboratory crystallization procedures, to enhance readiness for analyses.
- Processes to support multi-year customer programs for crystallization.
As part of this program, CASIS combined lessons learned from past spaceflight crystallization with recommendations from a 2015 technical interchange meeting of more than 40 experts and thought leaders, establishing criteria for informed molecule selection to aid in the identification of optimal organic molecules to study on the ISS National Lab.
Ultimately, the MMCG Program will provide a platform for discovery to users across many communities—commercial, non-NASA government agencies, academia, and private research—while also supporting future LEO commercialization efforts.
Applications for Microgravity Crystallization