NASA is reaching out to companies that want to use the International Space Station or low-Earth orbit for research or commercial space activities.
The space agency is asking for ideas from companies interested in using the orbiter to expand the U.S.'s commercial space industry or to propel technologies that will ultimately help NASA explore deep space.
"Now is an exciting time for space research and developing exploration capabilities," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, in a statement. "After 10 years of continuous habitation in low-Earth orbit, we know microgravity provides data unattainable on Earth. We are already seeing benefits in pharmaceuticals, medical robotics and materials sciences."
NASA's request for commercial proposals is expected to help the agency decide how to open up the orbiting laboratory to the private sector in better and more practical ways, according to Gerstenmaier.
"Ultimately, [this could help] to pave the way for private microgravity research facilities of the future," he said.
The ideas should focus on:
Creating a private system in low-Earth orbit;
Developing crew transportation to enable commercial activities aboard the station beyond NASA requirements;
Breaking down issues related to access and business barriers to realizing space exploration objectives;
Addressing NASA capabilities or expertise that would help facilitate transitioning to a more commercially driven space program, and
Identifying capabilities and resources NASA could purchase from the commercial sector to allow the space agency's research activities to continue beyond the life of the space station.
The complete proposal is available on NASA's website.
Proposals should be no more than 20 pages long and are due by June 30.