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Low-Earth Orbit Platform and Microgravity Utilization for Terrestrial Applications


Scope Title:

Use of the ISS to Foster Commercialization of LEO Space

Scope Description:

The NASA In-Space Production Applications (InSPA) portfolio invests in U.S. entities to develop, demonstrate, and master in-space production of goods and materials (including biomaterials) that target important terrestrial markets and lead to the creation of new markets and industries in space. InSPA is a collaboration between NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory to encourage use of the ISS and future low Earth orbit (LEO) platforms that follow the ISS to advance NASA's objective to maintain and strengthen the United States' leadership of in-space manufacturing and production.


This subtopic supports the InSPA Project goals to: (1) serve U.S. national interests by developing materials and technologies that strengthen industry leadership and improve national security; (2) provide benefits to humanity by developing products that significantly improve the quality of life on Earth; and (3) accelerate development of the space economy in LEO by stimulating demand for scalable and sustainable non-NASA utilization of future commercial LEO destinations.


This subtopic seeks proposals that leverage the unique capabilities of the ISS to develop and test new technologies that will lead to in-space manufacturing of advanced materials and products for use on Earth. Proposals should clearly describe how development of its technologies and products will benefit from the space environment to produce advanced materials and products to a level of quality and performance superior to that which is possible on Earth. In addition, the value of the application, the market size, and the role space plays in developing a better product should be clearly presented. The intent is to transition the results of this subtopic into customer-scale, in-space manufacturing products to achieve U.S. Government objectives for developing the LEO economy.  


Of specific interest are proposals that plan to develop valuable terrestrial applications that could lead to commercial markets in LEO. The emphasis is on producing goods or materials in space that are superior to what can be achieved on Earth and serve important national needs, benefit humanity, or lead to sustainable markets. Use of the ISS should facilitate validation of these applications and enable development of a product at reduced cost to attract significant capital and lead to growth of new and emerging LEO commercial markets in the following areas: advanced materials and biomanufacturing.  


Proposals that can be implemented on the ISS within 4 years from first funds to first flight are highly encouraged to apply. Proposers with little or no flight experience are encouraged to contact the operator of the ISS National Laboratory—the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)—to discuss the practicalities of implementing their concept. Many first-time fliers have succeeded in flying their manufacturing or production prototypes on the ISS over the past 5 years. A high percentage of InSPA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards going back to 2016 have already flown at least once, and often more than once, on the ISS. In addition, proposed production strategies should be appropriate for the crewed vehicle and fit within the accommodations and constraints of the ISS National Laboratory.   


For further information on InSPA goals and opportunities, please visit

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 6

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing
  • Level 2 12.4 Manufacturing

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware
  • Software

Desired Deliverables Description:

For Phase I, as a minimum, development and test of a bench-top prototype and a written report detailing evidence of demonstrated prototype technology in the laboratory or in a relevant environment and stating the future path toward hardware demonstration in orbit. A preliminary assessment of the technology business case (cost and revenue forecast, market size, potential customers, etc.) is also required.

Desired deliverables at the end of Phase II would be a preliminary design and concept of operations, development and test of an engineering development unit in a relevant environment (ground or space), and a report containing detailed science requirements, results of testing, and an updated business case analysis and/or application plan.  Concepts that can achieve flight demonstration on a suborbital flight or on the ISS during Phase II are especially valuable.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

The ISS is being used to stimulate both the supply and demand of the commercial LEO marketplace as NASA supports the development of the LEO space economy, while being aligned with the national goal to ensure the United States remains a world leader of in-space manufacturing and production of advanced materials.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This subtopic is in direct support of NASA’s recent policy to enable commercial activities to take place aboard the ISS. The ISS capabilities will be used to further stimulate the demand for commercial products development and strengthen U.S. leadership in in-space manufacturing and production.


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