Suntree-based CASIS wants to take your research projects to new heights


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Suntree-based CASIS marketing and communications manager Patrick O’Neill is looking to put Brevard-based research projects aboard the International Space Station.

Viera Voice Mike Gaffey

Got a high-flying idea for research best performed more than 200 miles above the Earth? The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space would like to hear from you.

The Suntree-based nonprofit was appointed by Congress and tasked by NASA to manage, promote and broker research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. It is located in the Suntree Office Tower, formerly the Mercedes Building.

Previously, NASA solicited grants for projects, regularly seeking proposals from scientists, entrepreneurs and students for projects that might be suitable for the lab, said Patrick O’Neill, new CASIS marketing and communications manager. 

Now CASIS is reaching into its own backyard for ideas from Brevardians.

“This is very new as far as allowing anybody at any point in time to send their ideas,” O’Neill noted.

Last month, CASIS took its message to Florida Institute of Technology for an event that attracted about 50 people, outlining benefits and opportunities for research and development projects aboard the space lab. Attendees included boomers and seniors exploring encore dream careers.

“It was an opportunity for us to meet with both academic researchers as well as other individuals who are interested in utilizing the ISS,” O’Neill said. “All things considered, it was everything we wanted it to be and then some. And we look forward to doing additional types of outreach events, either at other academic institutions or at other places throughout the country.”

CASIS hopes major companies send in such proposals, too. 

“The unsolicited route is also something we expect to get an awful lot of response from down the road because that’s the opportunity for commercial companies, the large Fortune 500-type companies that might want to send their research up to the ISS,” O’Neill said.

“The research that CASIS is responsible for brokering is research that would have Earth benefits down the road: drug therapies, consumer products technology developments that can improve life on Earth,” O’Neill said. “That’s our mission.”

Anyone can submit an unsolicited proposal for research and product development, O’Neill said.

“What we expect out of the unsolicited process route is a mixture of everything,” he said. “We expect students, we expect young researchers, we expect people who work for commercial companies both big and small to send their ideas.”

CASIS accepts promising project ideas through unsolicited proposals or by issuing proposal requests that are evaluated by a science team, O’Neill said. 

CASIS’ outreach efforts to maximize the National Laboratory’s use finally bore fruit in January, as Orbital’s Cygnus capsule ferried the nonprofit’s first sponsored payload of experiments to the space station. Research on board Cygnus included physical science, life science and education-related experiments.

“To that point, we had brokered a lot of out-of-the-box research opportunities, but to actually see your first bit of research go to the ISS, it shows that a lot of hard work came to fruition and everyone was really excited from our end. But it’s also a stepping stone in moving forward as an organization,” O’Neill said. “And I think that there’s going to be a lot more great research that’s going to be heading up through the CASIS manifest.”

For more information go to iss-casis.org. VV

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