At a Glance
- The Pew Research Center recently published a study showing that 80% of Americans believe the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country.
- ISS National Lab activities are providing some of that value to U.S. taxpayers through unique projects and programs.
- CASIS has developed a value and impact assessment tool to help define how new and existing projects and programs benefit humanity.
- Value-related information helps CASIS effectively engage the public on the tangible impacts of ISS National Lab activities.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the vast majority of Americans believe that “the space station has been a good investment for the country.” The study, released in early June, confirmed that 80% of Americans see the inherent value in ISS efforts. That value springs in part from the research and development (R&D) endeavors of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).
In addition, almost half of American surveyed believe there is value in basic scientific research on station, with many Americans hoping to benefit from space technologies that might address or improve how we monitor the Earth’s climate or gather natural resources and raw materials to use here at home.
Building a Value Assessment Framework
As manager of the ISS National Lab, CASIS seeks to maximize utilization of in-orbit resources and promote the value of ISS National Lab activities to life on Earth. To support these efforts, CASIS developed a methodology to assess the value created through the projects in its portfolio.
With the help of Navigant, a consulting company that specializes in identifying, creating, and managing value in businesses of all kinds, CASIS embarked on an initiative to better understand and characterize the value and impact of the ISS National Lab research portfolio using the methodology. What does that mean? It means that CASIS wants to make sure it’s selecting projects and programs that are delivering value to U.S. taxpayers—value that translates into tangible improvements for humankind and our planet.
The value assessment framework serves as a tool that helps CASIS measure projected and actual value and impact across the entire CASIS portfolio. This most recent Pew study is undoubtedly relevant in light of CASIS value assessment efforts and the CASIS mission, which includes creating value through ISS activities and informing the public of that value.
CASIS has successfully facilitated more than 200 research experiments to date; each awarded the opportunity to take advantage of a one-of-a-kind laboratory environment orbiting 240 miles above Earth.
Specifically, the methodology adopted by the ISS National Lab is based on best practice analogs from industry, government research agencies, and other national laboratories and is applied to the R&D projects carried out on the ISS National Lab.
CASIS began this effort by surveying the project investigators and companies that have already conducted research on the ISS National Lab. The information received was then used to score each project, using the assessment framework that quantifies both the value and the feasibility of projects. A panel of subject matter experts volunteered their time and expertise to complete this assessment.
To date, the following is the projected value of these projects (conducted on approximately 85% of the portfolio), validated by the project sponsors and external experts:
- Incremental revenue of more than $900 million tied to ISS National Lab projects
- A total addressable market of more than $110 billion—in other words, this is the opportunity for future revenue, based on current market size and trends, of the full portfolio activities both
- An accelerated time to market of approximately 1.5 years (i.e., products hitting the shelves!)
- Thousands of new direct and indirect jobs
- 25+ new solution pathways (a measure of innovation that can lead to a major advance in knowledge or new intellectual property)
Moreover, the CASIS-selected R&D portfolio leverages more than $140 million in non-NASA, non-CASIS funding—so others appreciate and are investing in the success of CASIS-selected R&D!
What’s Next for Assessing the Value of ISS Projects?
Every project selected to utilize the unique aspects of the ISS National Lab—such as microgravity, a unique vantage point in low Earth orbit, and extreme conditions—is chosen because of its potential value to humankind and the U.S. taxpayer. Investigations in low Earth orbit present researchers, educators, and businesses with countless opportunities to learn more about diseases and test new medical treatments, expand scientific knowledge and advance new technologies, and, ultimately, improve human lives. Value assessments continue even after a project is complete: you never know when results from ISS activities will lead to a breakthrough!
The assessment framework has developed into an effective tool for not only explaining the above value to the U.S. taxpayer but also as a method for optimizing portfolio expansion. CASIS has successfully facilitated more than 200 research experiments to date; each awarded the opportunity to take advantage of a one-of-a-kind laboratory environment orbiting 240 miles above Earth, and CASIS continues to award dozens of new projects each year—now all vetted using the new value assessment.
With the release of the Pew study, it’s clear that Americans believe ISS National Lab activities are on the right track when it comes to creating value, and CASIS continues to advance projects and programs that benefit life on Earth. Learn about the multiple ISS National Lab projects that recently launched on the SpaceX CRS-15 mission!