Intl. Space Station Capabilities of Research & Experiments with Detailed NASA Reports

NASA Meatball LogoThe International Space Station has a variety of multidisciplinary laboratory facilities and equipment available to support the National Laboratory operations. These capabilities have been built by NASA and its International Partners and can be made available on a time-shared basis to other United States government agencies and private entities to pursue their own mission driven research and applications on the space station.

Meet Bigelow Expandable Activity Module from Bigelow Aerosapce

beam-flight-render-highresThe Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is an experimental program developed under a NASA contract in an effort to test and validate expandable habitat technology. Although BEAM is a fraction of the size of the B330, it will still serve as a vital pathfinder for validating the benefits of expandable habitats. NASA will leverage the International Space Station (ISS) in order to test this technology for a two-year demonstration period.

BEAM will be launched in the unpressurized aft trunk compartment of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on the eighth resupply mission to the ISS, SpaceX CRS-8. The launch is currently scheduled for Spring 2016.


International Space Station Facilities Research in Space 2013 and Beyond from NASA: 

International Space Station Facilities Research in Space 2013 and Beyond PDF booklet cover from NASA. The laboratories and operational components of the International Space Station (ISS) have been assembled and are up and running. As all ISS partnernations expand their research programs, international collaboration and interaction among scientists worldwide is growing rapidly.

Joining the U.S. Destiny laboratory on orbit, 2008 saw the greatest expansion of research capabilities with the addition of the European Space Agency Columbus and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Kibo laboratories as well as several external platforms. Over the final years of assembly from 2009-2010, many initial experiments were completed in the newest racks and the crew complement on-board ISS doubled to accommodate six rotating crew members; thus our transition from “early utilization” to “full utilization” of ISS became reality. The ISS, now complete, serves as the world’s preeminent microgravity research facility.

Early science on ISS has taught us much about what to expect as additional research facilities become operational. Across the scientific spectrum, many hypotheses about what will happen without gravity are being challenged. Data from ISS experiments is causing scientists to rethink existing models, and propose different lines of research, as they seek to understand new data from orbit. Rather than waiting years for the next flight opportunity, ISS discoveries generate new hypotheses that can often be tested in a short period of time—in the same way that scientists would follow a compelling result in a laboratory on Earth.

We are able to push the bounds of previous research and extend the duration of experiments over many months and even years. We do not yet know what will be the most important knowledge or benefit gained from ISS, but through dedicated persistence, we do know that some amazing discoveries are yet on their way!

To learn about the internal and external facilities and capabilities on ISS, view or download PDF of this 96-page booklet at ISS Facilities Research In Space 2013 and Beyond (PDF, 4.6 MB)

External Payloads Proposer’s Guide to International Space Station:

External Payloads Proposer's Guide to the International Space Station PDF booklet cover from NASA.The External Payloads Proposer’s Guide to the International Space Station (ISS) provides proposers who are new to the ISS world an overview of the capabilities, accommodations, and requirements for operating on ISS. Proposers typically include Principal Investigators, Payload Developers (PD), Systems Engineers, and others who are instrumental in developing a new proposal. The Guide is intended as a one-stop shop, with a supporting documents list, for developing proposals for operating external payloads on the ISS, and provides an overarching view of the ISS. The ISS program provides an infrastructure capable of providing external payloads valuable short- to long-term access to space.

To learn about more, view or download PDF of this guide at External Payloads Proposer’s Guide to the International Space Station (PDF, 8.9 MB)

Facility Updates

With the extension of the space station to 2020 via the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, NASA is constantly evaluating additional state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, including tools to enable on-orbit analysis of biological samples. Check back here regularly for new facility updates.

Browse Facilities By Hardware Type | Facility Name Partner Agency

Biology and Biotechnology
In microgravity, controls on the directionality and geometry of cell and tissue growth can be dramatically different to those on Earth. Various experiments have used the culture of cells, tissues and small organisms on orbit as a tool to increase our understanding of biological processes in microgravity.

Earth and Space Science
The presence of the space station in low-Earth orbit provides a unique vantage point for collecting Earth and space science data. From an average altitude of about 400 km, details in such features as glaciers, agricultural fields, cities, and coral reefs taken from the ISS can be layered with other sources of data, such as orbiting satellites, to compile the most comprehensive information available.

Educational Activities
The space station provides a unique platform for inspiring students to excel in mathematics and science. Station educational activities have had a positive impact on thousands of students by involving them in station research, and by using the station to teach them the science and engineering that are behind space exploration.

Human Research
The space station is being used to study the risks to human health that are inherent in space exploration. Focal research questions address the mechanisms of the risks and develop test countermeasures to reduce these risks. Research on space station addresses the major risks to human health from residence in a long-duration microgravity environment. Results from this research are key enablers for future long-duration missions beyond low Earth orbit.

From freezers and incubators, to glove boxes and complete racks, standard multi-purpose facilities support a wide range of research on space station.

Physical Sciences
The space station provides the only place to study long-term physical effects in the absence of gravity. This unique microgravity environment allows different physical properties to dominate systems, and these have been harnessed for a wide variety of physical sciences.

Studies on the space station can test a variety of technologies, systems, and materials that will be needed for future long-duration exploration missions.