NASA and its international partners opened the door for research in orbit more than 20 years ago by launching the first pieces of the International Space Station, and NASA wants to work with U.S. industry to ensure that a robust, sustainable orbital economy will endure.
The space station is a one-of-a-kind orbiting laboratory. For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked aboard the complex conducting thousands of experiments in areas such as human research, biology, and physical science, as well as advanced technology development. The station will play an essential role in enabling new commercial markets needed to build a sustainable ecosystem in low-Earth orbit.
To accelerate the development of sustainable, scalable, and profitable non-NASA demand in low-Earth orbit, NASA, in conjunction with the U.S. National Lab, is offering funding in two new areas of focus for U.S. companies to partner with NASA in designing and building hardware leading to commercial markets in space.
NASA will provide limited funding as a catalyst for a strong and expanding U.S. space economy in low-Earth orbit, and the U.S. space agency will become one of many customers. This will lead to reduced costs for NASA’s activities, allow the agency to focus its resources and energies on farther horizons, and take advantage of commercial partnerships at the Moon. To realize this goal, NASA is working with U.S. industry to lay a strong foundation for a sustainable economy in low-Earth orbit.
NASA has added two new focus areas to the NASA Research Announcement soliciting proposals for Exploration Technology Demonstration and National Lab Utilization Enhancements. These areas specify proposals that seek to stimulate commercial demand and capability for low-Earth orbit services.
The first area focuses on nurturing high-value future technology development sectors. NASA is seeking proposals focusing specifically on in-space manufacturing, regenerative medicine, and other critical research areas that derive unique benefits from the microgravity environment; additionally, NASA will consider fields that have not yet been fully explored that could lead to a sustainable demand for platforms in orbit.
The second area focuses on proposals to create laboratory concepts similar to capabilities found in terrestrial labs. The space station is a testbed to prove the capabilities of future commercial space stations in low-Earth orbit. As NASA looks forward to lunar missions, a continued presence in Earth orbit will be critical for research, advanced technology development, and training.
NASA is conducting two rounds for these new focus areas, and interested U.S. companies may submit to either round:
- Round 1: White papers are due May 15, and proposals are due June 28
- Round 2: White papers are due June 15, and proposals are due July 28
NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) - solicitation announcement and amendments; research opportunities for International Space Station (ISS) utilization
International Space Station - overview, updates, research & technology, launches and landings, media, etc.
Space Station Research & Technology - latest news, opportunities, benefits, experiments/results, results resource library, facilities
Research Opportunities for ISS Utilization (solicitation document), NASA, 14 November 2012 (original), 11 April 2019 (with amendments) - amendments modify the thrust area proposal due dates to June 28, 2019 and adds a Round 2 for submission of white papers and proposals for the thrust areas
The Global Exploration Roadmap, NASA, January 2018
International Space Station Transition Report, NASA, 30 March 2018
National Space Exploration Campaign Report, NASA, September 2018