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NASA Seeks to Evolve Space Station for New Commercial Opportunities

As part of NASA’s continuing effort to open low-Earth orbit to commercial space opportunities, the agency is seeking feedback on ways it can help create greater access to and use of the International Space Station for research and commercial activities.

Through a Request for Information (RFI), NASA is soliciting ideas from companies interested in using the space station and the low-Earth orbit environment in innovative ways that will develop a strong commercial market and assist the agency in achieving its exploration goals.

The expanding U.S. commercial space industry has been able to create self-sustaining economic opportunities in low-Earth orbit, enabled by NASA’s commitment to reducing and removing barriers to a commercially-driven U.S. market. This has allowed the agency to sharpen its focus on deep space exploration.

NASA announced Jan. 9 that it intends to extend the country’s commitment to the International Space Station to at least 2024. This extension provides opportunities, some already under implementation, to broaden private market access to the unique microgravity environment aboard the space station.

“Now is an exciting time for space research and developing exploration capabilities,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After 10 years of continuous habitation in low-Earth orbit, we know microgravity provides data unattainable on Earth. We are already seeing benefits in pharmaceuticals, medical robotics and materials sciences. This RFI will help identify how to open this one-of-a-kind orbital laboratory to the private sector in better and more practical ways — ultimately, helping to pave the way for private microgravity research facilities of the future.”

Responses to the RFI should detail ideas that could further efforts to:
— create a private system in low-Earth orbit,
— develop crew transportation to enable commercial activities aboard the station beyond NASA requirements,
— break down access-, programmatic- and business-related barriers to realizing these objectives,
— address NASA capabilities or expertise that would help facilitate transitioning to a more commercially-driven presence, or
— identify capabilities and resources NASA could purchase from the commercial sector to allow NASA research activities to continue beyond the life of the space station.

Responses also may provide recommendations on how private research, and other activities, could be performed on the space station to foster future commercial value or demand for access to low-Earth orbit and further NASA’s exploration mission.

Responses should be no more than 20 pages and are due by June 30. The complete RFI is available at:

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has had crew members continuously on board since November 2000. In that time, more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited it. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in human spaceflight exploration, including missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:


Joshua Buck
Headquarters, Washington