NASA Shares Findings, Recommendations, and Response to Review of International Space Station National Lab

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — An external team appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has completed its review of the operations and management of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages.

The Independent Review Team (IRT) delivered its report to the agency in February, and NASA is now publicly releasing the report in full as well as the agency’s response to its recommendations.

“We are grateful to the Independent Review Team and chairperson Dr. Elizabeth Cantwell for their work,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We have heard the team’s recommendations, and NASA concurs that a significant change is needed to ensure American citizens obtain the most from their investment in the International Space Station. NASA and CASIS are now in alignment. Our forward plan is based on the Independent Review Team’s findings and recommendations, and we look forward to continuing work with CASIS to bring the ISS National Lab into a new era.”

The Independent Review Team’s report outlines the enormity of the mission for the ISS National Lab, the progress made, and the evolution of both the underlying set of expectations and predicted futures for the space station and the ISS National Lab. Its findings and recommendations were important for affirming and informing NASA’s forward plan as outlined in six actions:

  1. Work with CASIS on the best roles and composition of the CASIS Board of Directors and leadership
  2. Support CASIS’ establishment of a User Advisory Committee to provide input to the organization about how best to manage resources
  3. Create transparent project and program evaluation and prioritization processes
  4. Identify an ISS National Lab program executive at NASA Headquarters as the primary liaison to CASIS
  5. Update strategic priorities for the ISS National Lab on an annual basis
  6. Work with CASIS to optimize the allocation of ISS National Lab resources to meet strategic priorities

“The ISS National Lab is a remarkable national asset, and our team was focused on preserving the best use of this asset going forward,” said Cantwell, chair of the Independent Review Team. “The IRT found that complexities associated with the original establishment of CASIS as the ISSNL managing entity, when combined with NASA’s rapidly advancing expectations for commercializing low-Earth orbit, have created an unstable operating scenario for CASIS. The IRT is grateful for the entire community’s openness to our assessment and for the swift and positive responses to our recommendations.” 

From the moment Congress signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2005 bill into law, the entire U.S. segment of the space station has been a designated National Laboratory, which NASA managed directly from 2005 until 2011. In the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, Congress directed NASA to enter into a cooperative agreement with a not-for-profit entity, and in 2011 NASA entered into a 10-year cooperative agreement with CASIS for its management. In July 2017, NASA extended this cooperative agreement with CASIS to September 2024.

“With the goal of full utilization of ISS resources achieved, CASIS also recognizes that realizing the return on investment that the American people have made in the ISS requires important changes in the  model of the ISSNL, and in its relationship with NASA,” said Andrei Ruckenstein, co-chair of the CASIS Board of Directors. “We embrace the recommendations of the IRT report, many of which are fully aligned with our strategic plan and changes we have already begun implementing with our NASA colleagues. We are committed to working with NASA, other non-governmental organizations, implementation partners, and the broader user community toward maximizing access to the ISS for diverse users, accelerating sustainable commercial development of space and inspiring a next-generation of innovators and leaders.”

NASA is committed to management of the ISS as a National Laboratory as a resource for the American people in the benefits it returns to Earth and in the opportunities for the future as the agency is working to enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

Read NASA’s response and the Independent Review Team’s findings and recommendations here:

NASA Strategy for the International Space Station and Independent Review Team Report