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NASA Awards Grant to Develop CubeLabs for ISS Research

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
June 19, 2010
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International Space Station

NASA has awarded a grant to the University of Kentucky Lexington to develop a portable, standardized CubeLab bus that will be used to carry out astrobionics research aboard the International Space Station.

Principal Investigator Suzanne Smith describes the plan in the proposal’s abstract:

The end of the Shuttle program will leave the US in a precarious position. This is most acutely evident for future access to the International Space Station (ISS). By leveraging a new standard called the CubeLab, we propose to pave the way for a wide variety of payloads to fly to the ISS, provide improved access for research payloads, and help the United States fulfill NASA’s vision for the International Space Station.

We propose an innovative research program that brings together academic, industrial, and NASA partners to usher in a new era in access to space for industrial, educational, and NASA payloads on the ISS. NASA collaborators from multiple Mission Directorates and NASA Research Centers across the country will work with Kentucky’s academic experts to leverage expertise in small spacecraft development. In this project, the team will

  1. develop a robust, radiation tolerant, standardized CubeLab “bus”,
  2. enhance infrastructure in Kentucky to test and flight qualify ISS payloads, and
  3. apply these technologies and capabilities to flight qualify, launch, and operate a NASA Astrobionics experiment on the ISS.

The grant is part of $16.8 million that NASA has awarded to colleges and universities nationwide under the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

A total of 24 proposals were selected for funding in Puerto Rico and the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

PROJECT ABSTRACT
CubeLab Standard for Improved Access to The International Space Station for Science Payloads

Submitting Organization: UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY, LEXINGTON
PI: Suzanne Smith, Ph.D.
Co-I/Science: James Lumpp, Ph.D., University Of Kentucky, Lexington
Proposal Summary

The end of the Shuttle program will leave the US in a precarious position. This is most acutely evident for future access to the International Space Station (ISS). By leveraging a new standard called the CubeLab, we propose to pave the way for a wide variety of payloads to fly to the ISS, provide improved access for research payloads, and help the United States fulfill NASA’s vision for the International Space Station.

We propose an innovative research program that brings together academic, industrial, and NASA partners to usher in a new era in access to space for industrial, educational, and NASA payloads on the ISS. NASA collaborators from multiple Mission Directorates and NASA Research Centers across the country will work with Kentucky’s academic experts to leverage expertise in small spacecraft development. In this project, the team will

  1. develop a robust, radiation tolerant, standardized CubeLab “bus”,
  2. enhance infrastructure in Kentucky to test and flight qualify ISS payloads, and
  3. apply these technologies and capabilities to flight qualify, launch, and operate a NASA Astrobionics experiment on the ISS.

As a result, the proposed research will

  1. produce a portable standardized bus that will accelerate the development of future ISS research CubeLabs,
  2. further strengthen the collaborations among the researchers in Kentucky, as well as between the participating NASA Mission Directorates and Centers,
  3. enhance the research capabilities in Kentucky to design, develop and operate spacecraft and payloads,
  4. result in a sustainable program with Kentucky serving as integrator for future CubeLab payloads, and finally,
  5. will fly a NASA payload to carry out astrobionics research and disseminate research results that would otherwise have not been possible.