lectual property, technology transfer, conflicts of interest, and data integrity will also have to be addressed. In 2009 NASA issued an opportunity for non-U.S. government entities to propose uses of the ISS,24 and in 2010, NASA issued a draft Cooperative Agreement Notice for management of the U.S. portion of the ISS for non-U.S. government users.25 In both cases, private-sector entities are specifically targeted.
Commercial suborbital spaceflight is on the horizon and has the potential to provide a platform for the study in reduced gravity of rapidly occurring processes such as combustion phenomena. Several companies are now developing the hardware and procedures for suborbital flights.26 The flights will be available to the public, initially at high cost but becoming more affordable as operations continue. While flight trajectories, and therefore dynamics, differ among the companies and remain to some extent proprietary, it is reasonable to expect flights to reach peak altitudes in the range of 100 km and flight times of about 15 min. Hypergravity launch and landing phases will surround a free-fall or near weightless (milli-gravity) phase of 4- to 5-min duration. One aspect that needs to be addressed is how to make flight opportunities available to the research community. A typical NIH or NSF grant, for example, will likely support only one or two such flights, which obviates much of their appeal. One approach is for funding agencies (NASA, NIH, NSF) to pool resources and purchase a set of flights to be dedicated to life and physical sciences or to research in general.
Vehicles under development by commercial suborbital companies, such as Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, and XCOR Aerospace, will allow unprecedented access to the space environment and a new way to engage scientists, university researchers, and students.27 The scientific community has reacted enthusiastically to the promise of these vehicles, with more than 200 scientists from around the country participating in a series of workshops with suborbital vehicle developers, a distinguished group of scientists coming together to form the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group, and a conference on next-generation suborbital research. NASA also quickly recognized the potential of commercial suborbital spacecraft and has formed the NASA Commercial Re-usable Suborbital Research Program at NASA Ames Research Center.28 It is important that these types of educational networking opportunities be fostered to help catalyze research interactions among commercial developers, the scientific community, and NASA.
• With the retirement of the space shuttle pending, it will be important for NASA to foster interactions with the commercial sector, particularly commercial flight providers, in a manner that addresses research needs, with attention to such issues as control of intellectual property, technology transfer, conflicts of interest, and data integrity.
NASA has the opportunity to leverage scientific advances in the life and physical sciences funded by other agencies and by other countries and to develop partnerships that produce research results that have genuine benefits to both partners.
Domestic Examples of Potential Synergies in the Life Sciences
• Commercial companies. Personalized medicine, which is being funded for use in many biomedical fields, including oncology, cardiovascular disease, and predicting responses to certain therapeutic drugs, could prove enormously beneficial to NASA.
• Human health. NIH is developing the methodology necessary to provide for the healthcare needs of today’s civilian populations. Astronauts and other human beings in the future who may wish to travel and live in space vehicles and habitats can benefit from and contribute to research across multiple domains (e.g., bone, muscle, sleep, behavior). The unique environments in microgravity may provide a set of physical stimuli to humans that can lead to insights into human health and biology unachievable through any other research.
• Radiation biology and health physics. DOE and DOD have requirements to understand the effects of radia-