The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has opened part of the ISS exterior to research experiments via NanoRacks, a company providing plug-and-play platforms aboard the Station to third-party research organizations. For the first time, commercial experiments will have a dedicated external space aboard the ISS, putting them on “the front porch of the Universe.”
Since 2009 NanoRacks has been providing research institutions with shoebox-sized consoles that can house customized experiments for installation inside the U.S. National Laboratory on board the ISS.
On April 12 CASIS announced a $1.5 million deal with NanoRacks that will allow an external “NanoLabs” platform to be installed on the Japanese Kibo module. The structure will provide research spaces up to 8″ square that will be exposed to the environment of space. (Watch a video of the NanoLabs concept below.)
Through the CASIS investment, as many as four companies will be able to fly experiments for little or no cost.
A formal solicitation to research companies and private enterprises for payload proposals will be issued by CASIS in June. The NanoLabs platform is expected to be ready for flight by 2013 — a full year ahead of schedule.
“CASIS’ investment ensures that U.S. researchers will have access to the ISS External Platform far sooner than otherwise expected,” stated Jeffrey Manber, Managing Director of NanoRacks . “This program will enable faster innovation and spiral development for payloads — an opportunity that has not previously been made available to the commercial marketplace.”
Read the full press release here.
NanoRacks LLC was formed in 2009 to provide quality hardware and services for the U.S. National Laboratory onboard the International Space Station. The company operates the first commercial laboratory in low-earth orbit. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory through 2020.
Image: S134-E-011413 — A backlit ISS photographed by the STS-134 crew of Endeavour on May 29, 2011, after undocking from the Station. (NASA)