Five Ways the International Space Station’s National Lab Enables Commercial Research

A growing number of commercial partners use the International Space Station National Lab. With that growth, we will see more discoveries in fundamental and applied research that could improve life on the ground.

Space Station astronaut Kate Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in microgravity.

Since 2011, when we engaged the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab, CASIS has partnered with academic researchers, other government organizations, startups and major commercial companies to take advantage of the unique microgravity lab. Today, more than 50 percent of CASIS’ experiments on the station represent commercial research.

Here’s a look at five ways the ISS National Lab is enabling new opportunities for commercial research in space.

1. Supporting Commercial Life Sciences Research

One of the main areas of focus for us in the early origins of the space station program was life sciences, and it is still a major priority today. Studying the effects of microgravity on astronauts provides insight into human physiology, and how it evolves or erodes in space. CASIS took this knowledge and began robust outreach to the pharmaceutical community, which could now take advantage of the microgravity environment on the ISS National Lab to develop and enhance therapies for patients on Earth. Companies such as Merck, Eli Lilly & Company, and Novartis have sent several experiments to the station, including investigations aimed at studying diseases such as osteoporosis, and examining ways to enhance drug tablets for increased potency to help patients on Earth. These companies are trailblazers for many other life science companies that are looking at how the ISS National Lab can advance their research efforts.

2. Enabling Commercial Investigations in Material and Physical Sciences

Over the past few years, CASIS and the ISS National Lab also have seen a major push toward material and physical sciences research by companies interested in enhancing their products for consumers. Examples range from Proctor and Gamble’s investigation aimed at increasing the longevity of daily household products, to Milliken’s flame-retardant textile investigation to improve protective clothing for individuals in harm’s way, and companies looking to enhance materials for household appliances. Additionally, CASIS has been working with a variety of companies to improve remote sensing capabilities in order to better monitor our oceans, predict harmful algal blooms, and ultimately, to better understand our planet from a vantage point roughly 250 miles above Earth.

3. Supporting Startup Companies Interested in Microgravity Research 

CASIS has funded a variety of investigations with small startup companies (in particular through seed funding and grant funding from partnerships and funded solicitations) to leverage the ISS National Lab for both research and test-validation model experiments. CASIS and The Boeing Company recently partnered with MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator in the world, to fund three startup companies to conduct microgravity research.

4. Enabling Validation of Low-Earth Orbit Business Models 

The ISS National Lab helps validate low-Earth orbit business models. Companies such as NanoRacks, Space Tango, Made In Space, Techshot, and Controlled Dynamics either have been funded by CASIS or have sent instruments to the ISS National Lab that the research community can use, and that open new channels for inquiry. This has allowed the companies that operate these facilities to validate their business models, while also building for the future beyond station.

5. Demonstrating the Commercial Value of Space-based Research

We have been a key partner in working with CASIS to demonstrate to American businesses the value of conducting research in space. Through outreach events such as our Destination Station, where representatives from the International Space Station Program Science Office and CASIS select cities with several major companies and meet with the companies to discuss how they could benefit from space-based research. Over the past few years, this outreach has proven to be a terrific example of building awareness on the benefits of microgravity research.

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40 Years of Three’s Company: March 15th, 1977

“It’s in the consciousness, and that is great. Because we were on so long. As long as people who hire and fire don’t pigeonhole me as a guy in a sitcom with a guy and two girls, then I’m fine. I loved that character. I loved that show. It was tense for one year. But one year out of nine is not a bad ratio. I loved going to work. I loved Dave Powers and all of the great people on the crew. I loved doing rehearsals. There were certain times that I was sleepy or tired or sick, but I always knew how lucky I was. I always knew, ‘I’m having the time of my life.’ I’ve had joyous times since then, and a lot of the joyous times are because of Three’s Company, because of the popularity. So I’m no fool. I know that people know your name as the character. But it truly is a love-love relationship.”  - John Ritter, excerpt from “Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three’s Company” by Chris Mann


In case you forgot how funny and iconic I am.

I love me too. Buck 

Steve x Jonathan x Nancy Head Canon

Okay but realize that Jonathan, Steve, and Nancy would work so well and could easily end up in an unconventional version of love. Nancy has grown up with her parents together and stable but in a rather unloving relationship. She sees it simply as one of convenience rather than love and she doesn’t want that for herself. Jonathan has grown up from a broken home with a single mother who loves him but he hasn’t had a great vision of conventional love either. Steve also makes a comment about how his mother doesn’t trust his father to go on a business trip alone and that he doesn’t blame her. Which I believe is saying that his father has cheated before and that his parents relationship isn’t sparkling either and henceforth alters his idea on he conventional two person relationship as well when it comes to love. All three see that two person relationships don’t instantly fulfill that love requirement. But another great thing is that despite these examples of love set in front of them by their parents you can visibly see with all three that all three are still optimistic in a sense that they can find it. So I can see them being very okay with being in a polyamorous relationship and it being unconventional because at least it is real love and not what they’ve grown up with and know isn’t what they want. From this first season we see that Jonathan is so full of love whether it be for his brother and mother or his love and protectiveness over Nancy despite it probably being first instinct to shut people out. He also forgives Steve pretty quickly and is still protective over his life. Then you have Steve who everyone sees as a whore, and this is everyone’s opinion of him in sorts in the show which is what I imagine his father really is. Steve however is head over heels for Nancy and everyone is just sort of stunned by it and assumes he’ll cheat on her, or that he’d ignore her after getting her virginity but instead he constantly seeks her out and checks on her. Sure he has his very selfish moments but he fact that he has overcome a lot of them is great, and that he is so willing to let his love for Nancy be known is great. And then you have Nancy who you could see in some sense be afraid of ending up like her parents and settling down or getting involved having a sort of love for both boys. So this relationship could honestly be one of the most beautiful things and the characters are already perfectly written for it.