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Home Blogs Laurie Ruberg 21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships

21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships

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Written by lruberg45!
11 Feb 2011
Thomas Edison, a prolific American inventorOn this anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birth (Feb 11, 1847), it is fitting that we reflect on the value of invention and commercialization as part of our country’s heritage. Last week NASATalk featured a blog about student experimentsaboard the final space shuttle flight. Several commercial ventures and investments are behind this first national space science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program. This article provides examples of commercial, nongovernmental organizations and independent schools involved in International Space Station experiments—continuing the tradition of successful ties between entrepreneurs and new discoveries.

Last week’s call for student participation in International Space Station STEM experiments was inspired by the 48 Challenger Learning Centers that were established as a loving tribute to the Jan. 28, 1986, tragedy. By recalling the Challenger tragedy on its 25th anniversary, I’d hoped to stimulate student and teacher interest in current STEM in space opportunities while many were remembering the brave Challenger STS-51L crew.

Looking at space exploration 25 years later, government leaders realize that continued involvement in space exploration and research is quite expensive. Involving capable commercial collaborators such as the NanoRacks company and organizations like the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), which oversees the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SEEP), is one way to make space missions and research viable. As commercial space entrepreneur Jeffrey Manber points out, in many cases the commercial space partner “first proved their programs in the marketplace before asking for NASA funding and operational support” (personal correspondence Feb. 7, 2011).

Valley Christian School - ISS Project in the NewsThe San Jose (CA) Valley Christian School is one of the independent schools that has conducted experiments on board the space station using the NanoRacks technology. The high school student experiment involves testing whether plant-based food can be grown to sustain astronauts during prolonged space missions. Students received data, digital photos, and video of their experiment during testing and while onboard the International Space Station. View the Valley Christian School students discussing their International Space Station research project in this web-based movie.

To get involved in the SSEP for STS-135, the proposed final flight of shuttle Atlantis and final flight of the U.S. space shuttle program, review the list of critical elements for participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program presented for prospective school district applicants.

NanoRacks is working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement awarded from a competitive announcement of opportunity for the use of the National Laboratory on the International Space Station. Funding to build and certify the rack inserts has come exclusively from NanoRacks and its customers.

Early testing of the NanoRacks LLC (Laguna Woods, CA) research platforms opened up new avenues for innovative technology companies to gain a foothold as entrepreneurs took on space as a new market venue. NASA reports that 507296main1 vch 226the scientific research community has responded enthusiastically to the international commercial research facility activated on the International Space Station. A photo (at right) shows NASA astronauts using the NanoRacks research platforms. Read more about this technology on the NASA website. This July 2010 photo shows U.S. astronaut Shannon Walker conducting research within a fully commercial research facility designed to make access to the International Space Station easy and cost effective for scientists and educators.

The NanoRacks research platforms are designed for use within the pressurized space station environment. Each platform provides room for up to 16 customer payloads to plug into a standard USB connector, which provides both power and data connectivity. Its plug and play system uses a simple, standardized interface that reduces payload integration cost and schedule for nano-scale research on the orbiting laboratory.

Image caption: Students at Valley Christian High School (left to right: Michael Lee, Veronica Lane, and Taehyun Park) work with mentor George Sousa to construct their NanoRacks-CubeLabs hardware. Image Credit: Valley Christian High School

"As the International Space Station National Lab activities are ramping up to enable full use of the station, partnerships such as this one are an important component of an integrated strategy to enable full utilization," said Jason Crusan, NASA's chief technologist for space operations. "Lowering the burden to conduct research while demonstrating that hardware can go from concept to on-orbit capability in less than 10 months is also a significant milestone." (Read more about this on the NASA website.)

The ExPRESS Rack and CubeLab provided by NanoRacks on the International Space Station allow students 30 days of microgravity experimentation situated in hardware that has been tested and is already known to the educational community. NanoRacks has negotiated with NASA to locate our NanoRacks liner in a space station ExPRESS Rack as part of the International Space Station National Laboratory. To learn more about NanoRacks space research opportunities, go to the NanoRacks website.

Last update (20 May 2013)


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21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships
Written by: lruberg45! On: 15 Feb 2011


Thank you for sharing information about your school's involvement in the ISS student research opportunities.  Please share more about the August 2011 Race-to-Space Conference being offered by your school.  What can a science teacher and/or administrator hope to learn by attending this conference?

We want to hear more about your school's innovative STEM education program.


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21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships
Written by: lruberg45! On: 15 Feb 2011


Thank you for your comment. I hope you will share more about how your company, NanoRacks, and others are involved with helping to stimulate the next generation to continue America's leadership in space.  How can science, math, and technology teachers get connected with commercial partners to discuss their ideas for space experimentation and research?  Does your company offer internships or coop placement for college-level students?



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21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships
Written by: Werner Vavken On: 14 Feb 2011

Programs like this are making a measurable impact on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. The school that made the first CubeLab for the ISS is hosting the world's first Race-to-Space Conference for High School administrators, teachers, parents and student on August 1-2, 2011 in San Jose, California. Interested folks should visit:



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21st Century Earth and Space Explorations Spawn New Partnerships
Written by: Jeffrey Manber On: 11 Feb 2011

Your blog is a powerful window into how  the ways we do education with the government, whether in space or on the earth, are changing. All of us working on the commercial path are confident that the private sector will help stimulate the next generation to continue America's leadership in space.

Well done.  And thanks for introducing your readers to this fascinating new chapter.


Jeffrey Manber


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