United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Human Space Technology Initiative

Outreach Seminar on the International Space Station

8 February 2011, Room M7, United Nations Office at Vienna

Vienna Internatonal Centre

Overview/summary of the seminar

1. Opening and Welcome Remarks

Ms. Mazlan Othman (Director of UNOOSA) welcomed the participants and extended her appreciation to them and particulary to the ISS partners for their cooperation in organizing the Seminar. Ms. Othman expressed her excitement for the new Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI) of the Office and shared her experience as head of the Malaysian National Space Agency. Ms. Othman also emphasized that HSTI was part of the capacity-building activities and that it was important that all the countries benefited from the opportunities available for carrying out microgravity activities on the ISS.

2. International Space Station Overview

Mr. Rod Jones of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made a presentation about the ISS which included an overview of the ISS research and the on-orbit facilities as well as of non-partner participation. The presentation showed key features and facts about the ISS, collaboration aspects of the five space agencies (the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), NASA, and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos)), research and payload resources available onboard, internal and external research accommodations, robotics, assembly and maintenance aspects, communication and control, and crew and cargo capabilities.

Mr. Jones informed the audience that, in 2002, the ISS partnership developed a Non-Partner Participation Policy that governed how non-ISS partners could participate in the ISS program. After an initial bilateral agreement between a non-ISS partner participant with one of the five partners of the ISS is made, the ISS partnership is to review the proposed bilateral cooperation for approval. Non-ISS partners are encouraged to cooperate with ISS partners to discuss research proposals.

3. ISS Research Accomplishments and Potential for Future Research

Ms. Julie Robinson (NASA) presented an overview of the ISS research accomplishments, focusing on why research in space was important and why it was done on the ISS, what had been done, the most important results, and how non-partners had participated to date. Several of the disciplines that use the ISS laboratory are: biology and biotechnology, human physiology and performance, physical science, technology development and demonstration, Earth and space science, and education. Major scientifc achievements in each discipline were presented.

Through 2010, 58 countries have participated in ISS utilization. In order to optimize cooperation and avoid duplication in the utilization of the ISS laboratories, international working groups for coordination of ISS utilization were created. The working groups are assisted by the ISS User Operations Panel (UOP) for the coordination of strategic planning and program research objectives and by the ISS Program Science Forum (PSF) for the coordination of research issues, research communication, and results tracking.

Mr. Mohd. Alauddin Mohd. Ali from the Institute of Space Science (ANGKASA) (University Kebangsaan in Malaysia) presented information about the national space-related institutions and the space activities carried out in Malaysia, mainly focusing on research in microgravity, space weather, ionospheric studies in the equatorial region, astronomy, and satellite technology.

Mr. Adigun Ade Abiodun (Nigeria) presented a view on the utilization of the ISS by the developing countries: emphasized the benefits that developing countries could gain from the ISS, why and how they wanted to participate in the ISS and HSTI, and concluded with the suggestion of guidelines for such participation. Mr. Abiodun showed that the real key would be to build local capacity for the advancement of science and technology in support of national priority needs and development goals.

In order to participate in the utilization of the ISS, a developing country needs to define the research the nation wants to carry out and the expected outcomes and estimate the national readiness to participate in terms of available national professional expertise and funding. A further step could involve OOSA. Mr. Abiodun expressed the need for the Office to act as a bridge between the ISS partners and developing countries interested in cooperating with the partners by setting up guidelines and specifications for the preparation and design of ISS on-board experiments.

Mr. Takao Doi (UNOOSA) presented the Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI) which would be carried out by OOSA under the framework of the Programme on Space Applications. Mr. Doi reported on the mandate and activities of the Programme, and briefed the audience on the activities of the Regional Centres of Space Science and Technology Education affiliated to the United Nations that were the major beneficiaries of the capacity-building activities of the Office. The major activities of the HSTI would be:

  1. To conduct expert meetings, workshops, and seminars on human space technology;
  2. To provide information to Member States on ISS utilization activities;
  3. To build global capacity in microgravity education and research.

He also thanked China, Germany and Japan for providing the Office with experts who would work on HSTI under non-reimbusable loan (NRL) arrangements.

4. Overview on ISS International Partners' Research and Facilities

Ms. Nicole Buckeley (CSA) reported on the CSA's involvement in the assembly of the ISS and the program for utilization. The double approach followed by CSA is based on "Push (basic)" knowledge through world-class research on one hand, and "Pull (Applied)" innovation on the other. The activities carried out by CSA on the ISS are the following: space robotics, technology development, scientific research, and outreach and education.

Mr. Eric Istasse (ESA) presented the ESA's research capabilities on-board the ISS, focusing on ESA contributions to the ISS in terms of modules as well as research and payload resources available on-board the ISS, its research assets deployed with the Columbus module for a broad science community, and the agency's utilization achievements. ESA follows a multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary approach to get an objective evaluation of the implementation status of its research projects, to collect novel ideas or concepts in the various research cornerstones, to foster interdisciplinary approach, and to adapt a research strategy, if necessary.

In particular, given the unique structure of the agency, Mr. Istasse emphasized the special relationship between ESA and the European Commission and the cross-disciplinary approach followed in the selection of the areas of research to be carried out on the ISS.

Mr. Tai Nakamura (JAXA) presented the overview of the Japanese Experiment Module  Module on the ISS, named KIBO. The presentation included an overview of accommodation for payloads inside KIBO, the long-term perspective of its utilization, life science and microgravity experiments, industrial applications, human body research, KIBO external payloads, and educational activities carried out so far. Particular emphasis was given concerning cooperative activities with countries in Asia and the Pacific. Mr. Nakamura referred to a report issued by the Space Activity Commission of Japan in June 2009 which noted the importance of Japan as "the gateway to the ISS for Asia".

Mr. Nakamura informed the audience that JAXA had promoted ISS/KIBO utilization cooperative activities with Asia-Pacific countries through the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF), and that a task force under the Space Environment Utilization Working Group of APRSAF had been working to plan joint KIBO utilization missions with Asian countries.

Ms. Julie Robinson (NASA) presented the objectives of U.S. Research on the ISS linked to NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008, pointing out that other U.S. government agencies use the ISS to meet their agencies' objectives and that commercial and non-profit organizations use the ISS in the interest of economic development in space. The ISS Program Office works in three major directions: the ISS National Laboratory, NASA-funded research, and international partner integration. Ms. Robinson briefed the audience on the ISS research in-progress and highlighted upcoming research programs.

Mr. Georgy Karabadzhak (Roscosmos) presented an overview of the ISS Russian segment research and facilities, focusing on a long-term research programme and its applications  (applied science and future exploration technologies) in the following fields: bio-medicine, physical and chemical process in reduced gravity conditions, geophysics, Earth remote sensing, bio-technology, space technologies, and solar system and astrophysics investigations. The presentation also informed the audience about the international collaboration projects carried out by the agency and it emphasized the availability of Roscosmos to build up new relationships and cooperation with developing countries.

5. ISS-enabled Education Opportunities

Under this agenda item, it was emphasized that the ISS was also important as an educational platform which had contributed to the  development of science and technology. Each representative from the ISS partners presented their education and outreach activities connected to such fields as space research, promotion of the achievements of the on-orbit experiments and conducting outreach event in general at all levels.

NASA has organized events that have involved over 31 million  school students around the world, offering learning opportunities in Earth knowledge, the Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS), audio/video interaction between the ISS crew and the students, and demonstrations of the behaviour of simple items in microgravity. Students  have conducted classroom controls of ISS experiments and investigated autonomous rendezvous technologies; and students have competed to design experiments to be conducted on the ISS.

Roscosmos conducts experiments and lessons from space to popularize space research, promote achievements by cosmonautics, and involve students in software/hardware development and other experiments in an amateur radio network and in physics.

CSA offers mathematics, science, and technology learning products to students and educators providing direct access to CSA scientists, engineers, and astronauts to increase educator awareness of the space context as well as tools and scenarios to support learning. The CSA Education and Outreach Learning Programs provide unique learning experiences that encourage hands-on space-focused science learning.

ESA offers primary and secondary schools online lessons about various topics, including the Columbus Module, ISS education kits containing fully illustrated information, sources, and experiments conducted on the ISS, and radio contact between astronauts on the ISS and students (ARISS). The SUCCESS program (Space station Utilisation Contest Calls for European Student initiativeS) allows University-level students to submit ideas for payloads which are reviewed by scientists at ESA for scientific merit and feasibility.

JAXA has conducted experiments on the mutation effects of spaceflight on seeds and, through JAXA's Spaceflight Kids Space Mission I, the Agency had provided study opportunities on the ecosystem and the Earth's environment by growing spaceflight plant seeds. The seeds were then distributed to the schools. In order to increase public awareness, JAXA periodically conducts a number of zero-gravity experiments selected by the general public and initiated the Uchu Renshi project, a chain poem initiated by an astronaut while in space and continued and completed by people on Earth.

In order to share best practices and unite efforts to foster interest in space, science, and technology among students worldwide, the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) of France, CSA, ESA, JAXA, NASA, and non-agency partners involved in space-related educational pursuits created the International Space Educators Board (ISEB).

The representative from Indonesia emphasized the need to train the young generation and the importance of developing capacity-building activities in this field. He noted that receiving education material from the ISS partners could greatly contribute to boosting that effort, and the United Nations could have a pivotal role in coordinating the distribution of that material to developing countries.

6. Major Points of Discussion

At the end of the presentations, the session was opened for the exchange of opinions between the five ISS partners and the developing countries represented in the room. The major questions and answers are summarized as follows:

Q.: Given a low available budget, what are the activities carried out in the laboratories onboard the ISS in which developing countries could take part?

A.: There would be different ways to involve developing countries in doing research in space and in the utilization of the laboratories on the ISS. The best option would be to identify experiments and research that can be beneficial for the country in terms of meeting national development priorities and current challenges and then join the research team. However, in order to do that, capacity-building and training of local scientists and researchers would be the prerequisite for this kind of cooperation.

Q.: Is the ISS fully utilized? What is the rationale of the experiments? Is there a waiting list for carrying out the required experiments on the ISS?

A.: ISS partners work together to plan the full utilization of the ISS.  Working groups evaluate and coordinate the experiments as they are planned by each partner in order to optimize the plan, there are waiting lists for some agencies and some disciplines needing access to specific facilities.  There is an opportunity for collaborative research and growth included in these plans, and ISS partners welcome future dialog on such collaboration.

Q.: What is the time between the official request for an experiment and the conduct of the experiment?

A.: It very much depends on the disciplines and on the modules to be utilized and upon the queue for the ISS partner agency that sponsors the research.  For NASA, experiments that use existing hardware or simple hardware have been implemented in as little as six months.  Experiments requiring complex new hardware to be built can require multiple years.

Q.: Is the ISS a continuation of the MIR?

A.: Roscosmos continues to conduct some of the experiments on the ISS that were carried out on the MIR but with a different scope. Today the interests of the space industry have a higher relevance for Roscosmos.

Q.: Can industry make use of the laboratories onboard the ISS?

A.: JAXA  provides two ways of participation in the ISS utilization for private entities. One is a collaboration program between JAXA and industries in the field of applied research aiming to contribute to our society by creating beneficial products. The other is a commercial utilization program in which any user may use the facilities and crew time provided by JAXA on a reimbursable basis.

NASA enables the U.S. industry utilization of the ISS through its designation of its share of the ISS capabilities as a U.S. National Laboratory.  NASA also engages in cooperative projects with industry that provide commensurate benefits to the U.S.  In addition, NASA would possibly allow industry use of NASA ISS facilities or resources on a reimbursable basis.

Roscosmos implements the experiments, only if it is proved that the requested experiments are beneficial for the national needs.

7. Achievements of the HSTI Outreach Seminar

  • The 48th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee noted with appreciation the participation of the ISS partners in the Outreach Seminar on the ISS, held on 8 February 2011, organized by the Office in the framework of the HSTI (A/AC.105/987, para. 40).
  • The Seminar brought together representatives from all the ISS partners as well as from many non-ISS partner countries with the United Nations to start discussions on how HSTI could play a role as an advocate  for non-ISS partners for broader use of the ISS.
  • The Seminar established that HSTI could be a meaningful mechanism for creating awareness about the potential of the ISS and the research conducted on the ISS among countries, regions and potential users that have to date not involved with such activities, thereby contributing to capacity-building in space science and technology education.


Morning Session



Mazlan Othman (UNOOSA)


International Space Station (ISS) Overview

Rod Jones (NASA)


Coffee Break



ISS Research Accomplishments and Potential for Future Research



Julie Robinson (NASA)


Mohd. Alauddin Mohd. Ali (Malaysia)


Member State Expression of Interest

Adigun Ade Abiodun (Nigeria)


United Nations Human Space Technology Initiative

Takao Doi (UNOOSA)

Afternoon Session


Overview on ISS International Partners' Research and Facilities



Nicole D. Buckley (CSA)


Eric Istasse (ESA)


Tai Nakamura (JAXA)


Julie Robinson (NASA)


Georgy Karabadzhak (Roscosmos)


ISS-enabled Educational Opportunities

Julie Robinson (NASA)


Question-and-Answer Session






- European Space Agency (ESA)
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