A high-profile cosmetics company is providing a new look for NASA by using the International Space Station to market its products.
Estée Lauder is paying NASA to launch bottles of its nighttime skincare serum so they can be photographed aboard the International Space Station. The company is using the flight of its Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex to create content for its social media channels, as well as deliver back a unique flown-in-space artifact that Estée Lauder intends to auction for charity.
The bottles are launching on board Northrop Grumman's NG-14 Cygnus cargo spacecraft, the S.S. Kalpana Chawla, which is scheduled to lift off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sept. 29. If the launch proceeds to plan, the uncrewed spacecraft will arrive at the space station four days later, on Oct. 3.
"We chose this iconic product because of its long history of firsts in the beauty industry," Stéphane de La Faverie, group president of Estée Lauder Companies and global brand president of Estée Lauder, said during a call with reporters on Thursday (Sept. 24). "When it launched in 1982 as Night Repair, it was the first nighttime repair serum in the beauty industry and the first-ever beauty product to use hyaluronic acid."
"Now, 30 years later, we are adding another first to its legacies as the first serum to launch into space," de La Faverie said.
The ten 1.7 oz (50 ml) bottles of Advanced Night Repair serum are flying under a new NASA program that devotes 5% of its space station activities to commercial and marketing-focused projects. The space agency is promoting and enabling the commercialization of the space station so it can eventually redirect the money it spends in low Earth orbit to future deep-space exploration missions.
"We really believe this type of activity can help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses by demonstrating the value of conducting commercial activities in space," said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "We also think there is value from a large, well-known company, such as Estée Lauder, being among the first companies to take advantage of our commercial use policy."
"We really hope that this will increase awareness of these opportunities among the commercial community," McAlister said.
Per a fee schedule announced by NASA in June 2019, Estée Lauder will pay NASA $17,500 per hour for the time it takes an astronaut to photograph and film the bottles floating in front of the Earth-facing windows in the station's cupola. The company, working under an agreement brokered by Space Commerce Matters, a Boston-based space commercialization firm, will also be responsible for the cost of launching the bottles and returning them to Earth at a rate of $3,000 per kilogram up and $6,000 per kilogram down. (One kilogram is about 2.2 lbs.)
The imagery will be used by Estée Lauder as part of "an exciting story that we are building to share with followers as we take them into a journey to space," said de La Faverie, and at the same time reinforce "our leadership in skincare innovation."
Per the federal restrictions that apply to all civil servants, no astronauts will appear with the Night Repair bottles. Station crew members did not receive any type of special training for this activity and the photographer has yet to be selected. ("An astronaut will be assigned based on availability when the activity gets added to the timeline," a NASA representative said.)
Estée Lauder will not be able to use the imagery to imply endorsement or approval by NASA or its astronauts.
Once the bottles are back on Earth, Estée Lauder plans to offer one to the public.
"One of the other exciting things is that when the Advanced Night Repair bottles return to Earth next spring, we're looking forward to auctioning one of the bottles for charity," de La Faverie said.
Commercial, off-the-shelf products have flown on NASA missions since the first Mercury spaceflights in the early 1960s. Under educational outreach agreements and research-based partnerships, branded products — including Lego toys and Coca-Cola soda cans — have been photographed on U.S. spacecraft. Astronauts have also flown and used cosmetic and skincare products as part of their personal hygiene kits.
Other countries' crewmembers, including Russian cosmonauts, have filmed products for TV commercials and collected imagery for advertisements aboard previous orbital outposts and on the International Space Station. Estée Lauder is the second company to do so with NASA, following a less-publicized activity with Adidas.
"We are really proud to be part of this opportunity, which I believe reflects Estée Lauder's commitment to innovation and science and for thinking outside of the box. This type of commercial opportunity helps NASA to continue their deep space exploration, and we're proud to support this initiative. They push the boundaries of innovation and exploration every day," de La Faverie said.
Follow collectSPACE.com on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2020 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.