ESA title
Space Station
Enabling & Support

Services available for in-flight ISS demonstrations

05/09/2019 647 views 2 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future

By far the best way to establish the market-readiness of novel European space technologies and products is to demonstrate them in space.

For everything that cannot be fully demonstrated on the ground, In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) and in-orbit validation (IOV) helps de-risk innovative new products, accelerate their development and encourage their uptake by future missions.

In line with the GSTP framework for Technology Flight opportunities (TFO), the third GSTP Element, Fly, has an overview of the different IOD/V services provided on board the International Space Station.

GSTP Fly would like to bring these services to the attention of industry and academia with the intention that those interested in these services can work together with the providers below. By putting companies and service providers in contact we hope to continue to encourage and support entities to implement their IOD/V but through a newly coherent and rapid process, while keeping the GSTP framework requirements.

The ISS platforms concerned are NanoRacks (Europe), ICe-Cube, Bioreactor Express and Bartolomeo.


  1. Companies and academia interested in these services are invited to first gather quotations from these service providers,
  2. Once you have the quotation, please propose the best offer to their GSTP delegates  with the intention of eventually agreeing on partial or total funding
  3. Send final proposals to GSTP Fly requesting a TFO, after having received the letter of support from the delegation.

GSTP Fly will provide support to entities from the beginning of the process until the post flight review.  This support includes:  assessment of IOD quotations, delta development due to interface requirements, setting up of reviews & boards with ISS operations and the service providers, ensuring ISS requirements are met and support the technical implementation of the IOD/V.


If you are interested in the services below, please contact  Mrs. Kenza Benamar: on

Services available


Ice Cube

The ICE Cubes Service to ISS is a fast, simple and cost-effective way for your experiment or technology to fly onboard the International Space Station. The service ensures committed and recurring launches, which is important for the commercial use of Low Earth Orbit. ICE Cubes allows for easy and fast-track access to flight opportunities for space industry developing leading edge space technologies through GSTP.

The ICE Cubes facility is a capable pressurised payload platform, which offers flexibility and modularity to host many different experiments. During flight, users are able to have real-time telemetry and telecommanding capabilities with their experiment (hardware ensured security) from any location with an Internet connection.

The ICE Cubes service allows for on-orbit IOD/V (in-orbit demonstration / validation) and for associated TRL rising. It allows to bridge the gap between concept proven technologies and space missions or between the laboratories/research centres and the open market.

The service launches experiment cubes every 3-4 months. The basic mission duration for an experiment cube is 4 months, providing high quality microgravity or radiation exposure inside the ISS. Shorter (1 month) and longer (8-12 months) missions can be accommodated.

The ICE Cubes service to ISS is the first step of a space access service that will include free flyers, external platforms, CubeSats, lunar landers/rovers and post ISS infrastructure with the same focus of “fast, simple and cost-effective access to space for research and technology”.

Key features of IceCubes service:

  • Out-of-the-box software suite which allows for real-time interaction capability 24/7 from any place with internet connection using standard internet protocols
  • Accommodating and controlling free floating payloads in the Columbus module with wireless connection to the ICE Cubes facility, allowing to test technologies for guidance & navigation algorithms, collision avoidance, formation flying, docking & berthing mechanisms, capturing of  non-cooperative bodies, sloshing and more
  • High data rate (4Mbps downlink, 0.5 Mbps uplink)
  • High data storage capability
  • High power capability
  • Establishing specific unique-added-value capability for focus technology or R&D areas,…



NanoRacks Europe is an Italian company with the mission of making space affordable for everyone.

They can offer affordable and prompt services to access space for all of ESA’s stakeholders, e.g. national agencies, European industrial players, R&D centres, academia, etc.

Offering hosting payload services on their own facilities on board and external to the International Space Station they can also offer retrieval options and are aware that any technology maturation process may require access to different destinations, such as sub-orbital, LEO, etc.

Nanoracks can offer a low-cost, open-source, standardised, miniaturised housing for science experiments through their plug-and-play module, NanoLabs. 

Generally, this 1.5U (10x10x15 cm) can house up to 32 individual NanoLab space research modules for your choice. Every NanoLab has a circuit board that activates the experiment, turns it off and can be function-changed for other activities.

A single NanoLab is 1U in size; but Nanoracks also supports 2U, 4U or 2 by 4U as examples.

The solution is affordable and allows the customer to focus more on the research than re-inventing the hardware each time.

Key features of NanoLabs service:

  • 10cm cube modules
  • Power from ISS (5V dc)
  • Standard USB connection
  • Easy data downloads
  • Airlock service
  • Repeatable missions
  • Returnable payloads

NR Research Platforms 1 and 2 hold the basic NanoLab. NR Research Frame-3 holds the SuperLab, which is 4U in size and allows for more sophisticated payloads with more power and capabilities.

NanoRacks offers complete in-house capabilities for payload integration, payload design and development and interfacing with space agencies.


Bioreactor Express

Bioreactor Express is a service to perform scientifi­c and technological experiments on board the International Space Station (ISS). It exploits the KUBIK facility permanently installed on-board the ISS in the Columbus module. Several categories of experiments can be performed using available miniaturized “bioreactors” dedicated to biological, biotechnological and biochemical experiments. A wider typology of experiments (e.g. plant physiology, food production, material science, fluid science, educational and more) can also be supported.

KUBIK is a temperature controlled incubator allowing experiments to operate in the range between 6 and 38°C. KUBIK can be equipped with a centrifuge capable of providing gravity levels between 0.2 and 2g.

Several types of bioreactors (also called Experiment Units or EU) and experiment containers are available to support investigations of biological systems inside KUBIK. EUs reduce a laboratory into a hand-sized electromechanical device that allows the autonomous execution of a scientific protocol, being designed to contain the cell culture and all the chemicals required by the experiment. These bioreactors have supported investigations in space on a variety of biological models: human and animal cells and tissues, yeast, bacteria, algae, small animals and plants.

The available bioreactors, or custom-developed hardware, can be accommodated in the available Experiment Containers that provide the mechanical, electrical and data interface to the KUBIK. The range of experiment containers offer an internal volume from 66 ml to 2 litres. Bioreactors and Experiment Containers offer the adequate Level of Containment needed to safely host experiment’s chemicals and biological samples during the permanence on the ISS and transfer vehicles.

Key features of Bioreactor Express' service:

  • Short time from experiment definition to flight: 12 months
  • Re-flight opportunities in short time, that allows the establishment of a research program
  • Availability of standard space qualified, flight-proven experiment hardware (customisation or new design also possible)
  • End to end service covering all experiment phases and paperwork, including safety
  • Unique point of contact


Bartolomeo enables the hosting of external payloads in low-Earth orbit, on-board the International Space Station ISS. Application areas include (but are not limited to) IOD/IOV, Earth observation, robotics, material science or astrophysics; payloads can be hosted for institutional and private organizations alike. Named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, the Bartolomeo platform is attached to the European Columbus Module and operated by Airbus. With its All-in-One Mission Service, the company provides all mission-related elements and can even assist when it comes to building the actual payload. Operating a mission on Bartolomeo is a highly cost and time-efficient way of bringing a payload into Space. Customers benefit from Airbus Defence and Space’s 10-year experience in integrating and operating payloads on the ISS: Users hence fully concentrate on their individual Space mission, without needing to develop a complex Space system or a deep understanding of the ISS.

Key features of Bartolomeo's service:

  • A Payload Mission Manager for guidance through Agency Acceptance and Safety Reviews
  • Final payload tests, integration and installation on the launcher
  • Launch
  • Installation on Bartolomeo
  • Payload-Bartolomeo interface
  • Operational interface via the internet (“Airbus Cloud Console”)
  • Data delivery
  • End-of-Life disposal