National Lab Plan for Station Moves Forward
Backdropped by Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, the International Space Station is seen from space shuttle Endeavour as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation on March 24, 2008 during NASA's STS-123 mission. Japan's new Kibo ("hope" in Japanese) storage module appears as the squat cylinder atop the central module in this view.
Credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Among the precious payloads set to launch tomorrow aboard the space shuttle Discovery is one of the first experiments as part of a NASA plan to use the International Space Station (ISS) as a U.S. National Laboratory.

The plan, put into action by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, will open up about half of the outpost's U.S. science facilities for outside use by non-NASA researchers by 2010.

As part of the initiative, NASA announced today new partnerships with the University of Colorado at Boulder's Bioserve Space Technologies Center and with SPACEHAB of Webster, Texas, and Zero Gravity Inc. of Stevensville, Md. The pairings will further NASA?s initiative to make ISS research facilities available to non-NASA scientists, said John J. Uri, deputy manager of NASA?s Space Station Payloads Office, in a briefing today here at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"With the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, it has really opened up the door to multiple other users besides NASA and besides NASA scientists to utilize this facility," said Louis S. Stodieck, director of Bioserve Space Technologies and a professor of aerospace engineer sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "As a laboratory, it is absolutely unique and unparalleled."

An experiment from SPACEHAB is already packed aboard Discovery, which is slated to launch Saturday at 5:02 p.m. EDT (2102 GMT). The project aims to develop a vaccine against salmonella by taking advantage of the effects of null gravity on bacterial virulence.

NASA says it has already seen interest from other government agencies, universities and private commercial companies in using the new orbiting national laboratory.

"I?m sure you?ve heard the expression, 'Build it and they will come,'" Uri said. "Well, we?re still building it, and they?re already coming."