ESA and JAXA Present ISS Utilization Plans to NRC Committee

ESA and JAXA Present ISS Utilization Plans to NRC Committee

European and Japanese plans for utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) for microgravity research were presented to the steering committee of the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space on October 14.

Olivier Minster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Science and Applications Division gave a thorough briefing on the European Life and Physical Sciences Programme in Space (ELIPS) and experiments ongoing or planned for the ISS. Keiji Murahami of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Space Environment Utilization Center provided details on JAXA’s plans for experiments in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM, also known as Kibo). ESA and JAXA have a joint “International Topical Team” for discussion of “hot” scientific questions that could be addressed through ISS research and development of resulting joint research proposals.

The Decadal Survey’s task is to identify and prioritize fundamental and applied research to be conducted in microgravity and partial gravity. Determining what facilities are available for that research is an important component of the study. The steering committee heard from Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, and Erika Wagner, MIT, on new and emerging launch companies that are marketing suborbital flights for scientific research and education. The companies include Virgin Galactic, Blue Origins, Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR, and Masten Space Systems.

The committee also received input from Space Studies Board chair Charlie Kennel, who also is a member of the Augustine committee on the future of the human space flight program. Dr. Kennel briefed the committee via telecon about the Augustine committee’s summary report that was released in September. He commented that the final report should be released within days. One of its major findings is that the ISS should be extended to at least 2020, which could make a significant difference in the committee’s deliberations. Ray Colladay, chair of the NRC’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, also briefed the group on the NRC study “America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs,” of which he was a vice-chair. General Lester Lyles (USAF, Ret.) chaired the study, and Dr. Lennard Fisk, former chair of the Space Studies Board, was the study’s other vice-chair.

(Note that some of the linked files in this story are large Powerpoint presentations and take a few moments to download. Please be patient.)

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