About the ISS National Laboratory

Background

In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory in order to maximize its use as a unique research environment for other U.S. government agencies and for academic and private institutions.

Five years later, Congress authorized NASA to competitively select a nonprofit entity to manage the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Early in 2011, NASA released a cooperative agreement notice to solicit proposals, and CASIS was selected on July 13, 2011.

Until this time, NASA has been managing the ISS U.S. National Lab and, to date, has facilitated the scientific and technological developments made there. For information on past and current ISS National Lab projects, visit:

Management of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory is now transitioning to CASIS.

For real time tracking of the International Space Station, visit: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/tracking/index.html

The Unique Features of the ISS Research Environment:

  1. Microgravity, or weightlessness, 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 phenomena and combustion. Moreover, microgravity induces a vast array of changes in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans, including global alterations in gene expression and three-dimensional aggregation of cells into tissue-like architecture.
  2. Extreme conditions occur in the ISS environment, including exposure to extreme heat and cold cycling, ultra-vacuum, atomic oxygen, and high energy radiation. Testing and qualification of materials 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 satellite and spacecraft components.
  3. Its location in low Earth orbit affords ISS a unique vantage point, with an altitude of approximately 240 mi (400 km) and an orbital path over 90% of the Earth’s population. This can provide improved spatial resolution and variable lighting conditions compared to the sun-synchronous orbits of typical Earth remote-sensing satellites.