These ISS National Lab payloads have been delivered in coordination with payload services provider, NanoRacks LLC, a private sector company that operates the only commercial research facility aboard the ISS via a Space Act agreement with NASA. Sponsored payloads that berthed to the ISS on this recent mission include:
NanoRacks External Platform will be the first commercial platform capable of leveraging the extreme conditions outside of the ISS. After a joint agreement with CASIS in 2012 on the development of this device, the external platform will provide a variety of ISS National Lab researchers access to the unique environment of space in disciplines such as materials science and biological sciences over the coming years.
NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 will use a student-designed and constructed Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver to track ship signals with a small satellite launched from the ISS. Results will validate the software and hardware for a space-based AIS system, and inspire students to develop a deeper connection to the space program. AAUSAT5 Student Team, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark.
NanoRacks-GOMX-3 tests a small satellite with an advanced antenna-pointing system and a variety of communications capabilities. The satellite contains three radios, one of which receives beacons from commercial aircraft to improve air traffic monitoring. Two radios test reception and data downlink in the L-band, used by GPS satellites, and the X-band, used by the military and for weather monitoring, air traffic control and other uses. Principle investigator, Kim ToftHansen, Gomspace, Denmark.
NanoRacks-Planet Labs-Dove is a fleet of nanosatellites deployed from the ISS to take images of Earth from space. The satellites are designed, built and operated by Planet Labs Inc., which provides the imagery to a variety of users. The satellites focus on areas within 52 degrees of Earth’s equator, where most human populations and agricultural areas are located, and they revisit the same areas more frequently than any existing government or commercial satellites. The images have several humanitarian and environmental applications, from monitoring deforestation and urbanization to improving natural disaster relief and agricultural yields in developing nations. The principle investigator is Robbie Schingler of Planet Labs, which is based in San Francisco, California.
“Our partnership with NanoRacks continues to produce new opportunities for commercial users with the goal of leveraging microgravity, the harsh environment of space, and the unique capabilities of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory,” said CASIS Director of Operations Ken Shields. “We look forward to working with NanoRacks and the research community on taking advantage of this critical hardware device to unlock further discovery right outside of the station. We already have a robust cadre of payloads that are scheduled to be deployed on the platform during 2016 and we are confident that we will keep the platform busy for years to come.”
“The External Platform is one of the largest private sector investments to date onboard the International Space Station,” said NanoRacks Managing Director Jeffrey Manber. “We are delighted it has reached the station and soon enough will be open for business for a wide range of basic and applied commercial research. We appreciate very much the role of CASIS as the first and key customer, for the platform.”