About the International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS) is an unprecedented achievement in global human endeavors to conceive, plan, build, operate, and utilize a research platform in space.
With a fully assembled space station supported by a full-time crew of six, a new era of utilization for research has begun: We can now shift our focus from ISS assembly to full ISS utilization for scientific research, technology development, exploration, commerce and education.
NASA's research goals for the space station are driven by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and are focused on the following four areas: human health and exploration, technology testing for enabling future exploration, research in basic life and physical sciences, and earth and space science.
The Ames ISS Utilization Office coordinates and leads NASA Ames’ science, exploration and technology activities aboard the ISS. The office leverages center capabilities and coordinates collaborations with government agencies, academia, and commercial and international partners for specific projects which benefit NASA and the nation as a whole.
What Ames contributes to ISS:
- Expertise in molecular, cell, organismal and animal (rodent) science
- Affordable payload development – ISS, free-flyers, suborbital
- Unique ground research facilities
- Advanced research concepts and hardware
- State-of-the-art technology development
Featured example: Rodent Habitat
Why do we need animal habitats in space?
(Click to view more)
The Rodent Habitat will enable the first long duration stays in space for multiple rodent species that will help us better understand the countermeasures necessary to allow us to travel to other planets. The Rodent Habitat project encompasses development and utilization of a complete suite of equipment that transports animals to ISS, supports long duration experiments on-orbit, provides access to the animals for on-orbit manipulations and analysis, and returns animals to the ground.
The primary component will be the Animal Enclosure Module-Extra (AEM-X). The Animal Enclosure Module-Transporter (AEM-T) will be used for launch and return of live animals. The Animal Access Unit (AAU) allows access to animals on board ISS and transfer from one unit to another for the first time ever and is what enables long duration stays.
Featured example: Wetlab-2
How can we study living tissue in space?
(Click to view more)
Wetlab-2 will provide a variety of advanced bioscience equipment that will allow for on-orbit analysis of tissues from many organisms, including humans. Wetlab-2 enables end-to-end in situ fluidic sampling of cell cultures, tools for collecting and processing animal tissues and instrumentation and reagents for quantitative gene expression analysis for on-orbit analysis for use on the ISS.
This real-time analytical capability will provide investigators with the opportunity to optimize experiments by modifying their protocols for subsequent repeat analysis.
Featured example: ISS and small satellite expertise
Can small satellites outside (and inside) the ISS help researchers develop new technology?
(Click to view more)
One area of special expertise at NASA Ames is small satellites, and there are several Ames small satellite projects associated with the ISS. One, called TechEdSat, was launched from the ISS on October 4, 2012. TechEdSat measures about 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side and carries a ham radio transmitter. It was developed by a group of student interns from San Jose State University in California with mentoring and support from staff at Ames and in partnership with ÅAC Microtec in Sweden.
TechEdSat arrived at the space station aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle July 21, 2012 and the station's Expedition 33 crew processed it for launch. TechEdSat's mission showcases collaboration among NASA, academia and industry to set the standard for future endeavors with small satellites known as cubesats.
Ames is also NASA's lead center for the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are bowling-ball sized spherical satellites. They are used inside the ISS to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers. They are also an interactive test bed for the development of multi-spacecraft and robotic control algorithms.