In NASA’s attempt to bring commercial space opportunities to low-Earth orbit, the agency recently extended a Request for Information (RFI) for engineers to submit ideas on the topic. According to William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., NASA has already seen pharmaceutical, medical robotics, and material science benefits.
The team hopes to identify how to open the orbital laboratory in the private sector. This move could open doors to private microgravity research facilities of the future—the microgravity position would provide data that’s unattainable on Earth.
This past January, NASA first announced plans to extend its commitment to the International Space Station to at least 2024—an opening salvo to create more opportunities for private market access. The expansion of the U.S. commercial space industry has created self-sustaining economic opportunities in low-Earth orbit, fostered by NASA’s promise to reduce barriers associated with a commercially driven U.S. market. The agency would like to continue to embrace these opportunities, which in turn triggered the RFI.
The RFI states that responses should be no longer than 20 pages, with details that attempt to do the following: create a private system in low-Earth orbit; develop crew transportation to allow commercial activities on the station; diminish access-, programmatic-, and business-related barriers preventing goals; address NASA capabilities or expertise that would ease a transition to a commercially-drive presence; and/or recognize capabilities and resources NASA could obtain from the commercial sector to continue to sustain NASA research activities. Additionally, NASA is open to recommendations on how private research could be executed on the space station. All submissions are due by June 30.