Advancing Research Knowledge 4, or "ARK4", represents the fourth calendar year that CASIS-sponsored investigations have been manifested for flight to the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The mission of CASIS is to manage, promote, and broker research investigations on the ISS National Laboratory intended to benefit life on Earth. This site provides an overview of all ISS re-supply missions that include CASIS-sponsored inquiries intended to reach the station during ARK4.

ARK4 Payloads

Cygnus CRS-5 captured by Canadarm on ISS for CASIS ARK4 Mission

Orbital ATK CRS-5 Payloads

Launch Date: October 17, 2016, 6:45 PM EST

  • Controlled Dynamics Locker for Microgravity Experiments on ISS

    Controlled Dynamics / Dr. Scott Green

    Dr. Green and his team have developed an insert for existing ISS hardware that will provide research payloads with a “controlled dynamic acceleration environment”—in other words, a technology that will dampen fluctuations/disturbances in the microgravity environment that occur onboard moving spacecraft. This technology promises to attract a new class of research experiments and private funding aimed at exploiting this controlled acceleration environment in microgravity, which has the potential to improve space experiments in crystallization; cell, tissue, and plant culturing; and other studies.

  • Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) Furnace

    NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

    Material melt-growth experiments have been dif cult to run in the space environment because there is just enough residual micro-acceleration (g-jitter) to produce natural convection that interferes with the structure and purity of the material. This convection is responsible for the lack of reliable and reproducible solidi cation data and, thus, for gaps in the solidi cation theory. The Solidi cation Using Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) experiment tested an automatically moving baffle (driven by melt expansion during freezing) that was designed to reduce thermal convection inside an ampoule to determine whether the baffle significantly reduces convection. Ground studies showed that the baffle reduces the movement of the material during its liquid phase, making the process easier to analyze and allowing more homogenous crystals to form. The key goal of SUBSA was to clarify the origin of the melt convection in space and to reduce the magnitude to the point that it does not interfere with the transport phenomena. This mission will provide updates to the hardware onboard the ISS, to include modifications to the furnace and inserts to ensure future investigations run nominally.

  • NanoRacks Black Box

    NanoRacks, LLC.

    NanoRacks-Black Box is a key part of NanoRacks’ next generation International Space Station platforms. This new platform is specially designed to provide near-launch payload turnover of autonomous payloads while providing advanced science capabilities for customers, including use of robotics, new automated MixStix and NanoLab-style research. OA-5 provides the first technology demonstration mission to test the NanoRacks Black Box platform, NanoRacks own payload hardware, and customer technology demonstration experiments. Technology demonstration payloads onboard OA-5 include multiple education inquiries, one of which features a partnership between Valley Christian High School (CA) and Microsoft, where students will leverage the Microsoft Windows 10 IoT platform to run experiments on a cell phone motor to test the behaviors of different metals and materials in microgravity environments with status and magnetic forces.

  • NanoRacks External Deployer

    NanoRacks, LLC.

    NanoRacks provides opportunities for CubeSat deployment from Cygnus after the vehicle departs from the ISS. The deployer is installed on the exterior of the Cygnus service module, and after completion of its primary ISS resupply mission, Cygnus will then deploy the satellites. There are nine satellites part of the OA-5 mission intended to launch from Cygnus in partnership with the commercial maritime awareness company, Spire. Today tracking of oceangoing ships is of limited use; information is gathered and delivered very infrequently to those that need it, making it useful almost exclusively for historical understanding; it loses its value 'in the moment' for real applications for both the public and private sectors, an issue given that 90% of global trade transits over the ocean. Spire’s many small satellites will provide close to real time information from anywhere on Earth. In the maritime sector, these satellites will increase safety and security across the planet’s oceans (for example, search and rescue, piracy prevention, etc.). This mission will allow Spire to validate specific elements of its technology (for example, antenna deployment mechanisms, satellite-to-ground communications link, etc.), as well as its market offering for maritime and weather data.

SPACEX Dragon Capsule Docking with the ISS for CASIS ARK4 Mission

SPACEX CRS-9 Payloads

Launch Date: July 18, 2016 at 12:44AM EST

  • Crystallization of Silver Nitrate in Microgravity on a Silver Cathode

    Eaglecrest High School, Centennial, CO

    This project seeks to assess the three-dimensional structure of silver crystals formed in microgravity using a technique called electrolysis. Microgravity affects crystal formation, typically enabling larger crystals with fewer defects than those grown on Earth. This study aims to deepen the understanding of the production of metal crystals by electrolysis for use in developing new methods of manufacturing nanowires and other nanostructures. Nanoscale structures function at the single-atom scale, and they can only work properly if they are structured correctly. But scientists do not fully understand the mechanics of nanoscale crystal structures. This investigation will provide new information about this process that could benefit future nanotechnology development.

  • Dissolution of Hard-to-Wet-Solids

    Eli Lilly & Co. / Richard Cope

    This experiment seeks to investigate the solubility of pharmaceutically manufactured tablets. By examining how a tablet formulation interacts with a liquid solution in microgravity—an environment that eliminates the confounding factors of gravity and buoyancy—investigators are able to gain a better understanding of how the tablet dissolves in the body and releases medicine. Data from this experiment will help improve drug formulations for accurate time-released delivery of the correct dosage.

  • Earth Abundant Textured Thin Film Photovoltaics

    Georgia Institute of Technology / Dr. Jud Ready

    The International Space Station relies on solar panels for electricity. This project will examine a new type of three-dimensional solar cell that absorbs sunlight more efficiently on Earth and in space. The new three-dimensional solar cell can trap sunlight coming from any direction, improving efficiency. The investigation will study the solar cell’s response to the continually changing sun angles and the harsh environment of space.

  • Effects of Microgravity on Stem Cell-Derived Heart Cells

    Stanford University / Dr. Joseph Wu

    Dr. Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, leads a research group focused on developing stem-cell based therapies to treat heart disease. This study will examine how adult skin cells induced to revert back to stem cells and then differentiated into heart cells mature and age in microgravity, where prolonged spaceflight causes documented changes in heart structure and physiology. The results of this study will provide important insight into the cells’ biology and utility for repair of damaged heart tissue.

  • Effects of Yeast in Microgravity

    Awty International School

    This student-led experiment sends three different strains of yeast cells to the International Space Station, where they grow in the same environment with the same nutrients. The investigation compares the cells’ growth rates, structure, and respiration to yeast grown on Earth, and analyzes the cells after they return from space to determine how microgravity affects their function and behavior. Yeast cells are widely used as models for human cells. Studying yeast cells’ response to microgravity improves biological studies related to human health, including studies on the potential advantages of new drugs.

  • Fluorescent Polarization in Microgravity

    Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute / Dr. Siobhan Malany

    Scientists study chemical reactions using a technique called fluorescence polarization, which produces changes in light when molecules bind together. This technique enables researchers to measure the interactions of proteins with DNA or antibodies and many other biomedical functions. This project seeks to test a commercial plate reader instrument that detects changes in light for these types of reactions to examine microgravity’s effect on fluorescent polarization, which paves the way for advanced biology research and drug development in space.

  • Global AIS on Space Station

    JAMMS America, Inc. / Robert Carlson

    A signal receiver and router system will be installed on the International Space Station to demonstrate the ability of the ISS to serve as a remote sensing platform for maritime tracking. Ships broadcasting information (for example, location, speed, heading, and registration number) through an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder will benefit from improved signal transmission. The vantage point of the ISS in low Earth orbit, extends the range and efficiency of maritime AIS signal transmission compared to high-altitude satellites, which are impaired by transmission latency.

  • Molecules Produced in Microgravity from the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

    California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory / Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran

    This project will screen fungi in microgravity for novel metabolic pathways and the production of natural products that could be beneficial for biomedical and agricultural applications. Microgravity is a stressful growth environment, and these fungal strains, recovered near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, are a rich source of biologically active compounds with properties that may be useful for the treatment of human disease and/or the growth of food crops.

  • NIH-Osteo

    University of Minnesota / Dr. Bruce Hammer

    Millions of Americans experience bone mineral density loss resulting from disease, the progressive effects of aging, or the accelerated loss of bone when confined to bed for long periods. Microgravity exposure also accelerates bone loss if astronauts do not engage in load-bearing, resistive exercise and take medicine to maintain healthy bones. This project will test whether the magnetic levitation of bone cells (osteoblast cells that build bone and osteoclast cells that tear down bone) in a bioreactor on Earth can be used to accurately simulate the free-fall conditions of microgravity by comparing gene expression in space- and Earth-grown bone cells. This information helps scientists determine the molecular changes that take place in the cells when cultured in magnetic levitation versus microgravity.

  • Plate Reader-2

    NanoRacks, LLC.

    Plate Reader-2 is a laboratory instrument on the International Space Station (ISS) designed to detect biological, chemical, or physical events of samples in a standard sample container (a microplate). The instrument operates on an automated system, which minimizes the required astronaut handling time. Astronauts only need to load samples into the microplate, and NanoRacks will remotely run the instrument from the ground. Microplate readers are widely used in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and this improved technology on the ISS may help to advance research in those fields.

  • Slime Molds

    Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School – Houston, TX

    This student-led experiment will treat slime molds with a series of stimuli while in microgravity, monitoring their responses and comparing them to slime molds on the ground. Slime molds have unique behavior—at times, they behave like isolated single-celled organisms; at other times, they assemble into slug-like multi-cellular organisms; and when they are under duress, they can produce spores. Slime molds and biofilms have been found on the ISS, and may grow differently in microgravity than they do on Earth. Improved understanding of slime mold behavior may yield new methods for eliminating them or using them for human benefit on Earth.

  • MultiLab: Research Server for the ISS

    Space Tango, Inc. / Twyman Clements

    The new MultiLab facility will be permanently installed on the International Space Station and will serve as a multi-user, general-purpose research platform for conducting research in microgravity. MultiLab provides structural support and a simple standard interface for lab modules called CubeLabs™ that are adaptable for experiments from any scientific discipline (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.). This platform technology from Space Tango, Inc. reduces the cost and time associated with flight experiment design and implementation for users in government, industry, and academia, and will enable more access to space for research and education.

  • Tomatosphere

    First the Seed Foundation

    Tomatosphere™ is an educational program started in 1999 in which students investigate how the space environment affects tomato plant growth. Each participating class is sent two packages of tomato seeds—one package of seeds that has been sent into space and one package of control seeds that have not been in space. Students and teachers compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds, not knowing which seeds went to space and which are the control seeds. This project will provide transportation of 1.2 million seeds to and from the ISS (the seeds will remain in orbit between 10 and 60 days). The project will also include monitoring and data tracking (temperature, humidity, and pressure) for both the seeds sent to the ISS and the control seeds. Tomatosphere™ is a hands-on student research experience with a standards-based curriculum guide that provides students the opportunity to investigate, create, test, and evaluate a solution for a real world case study.

  • The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth

    Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Houston, TX

    Crew members on the International Space Station receive food during cargo deliveries, but humans on future long-duration missions to the moon, Mars, or asteroids will need to grow their own food. This student led experiment tests how well fast-growing plants, such as pea shoots, can grow with combinations of red and blue wavelengths of light. Students will germinate plants from seeds and place them in a growth chamber so they can be grown in microgravity.

  • The Effects of Different Wavelengths of Light on Algae Oxygen Production in Microgravity

    Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Houston, TX

    Algae and plants respond differently to varying wavelengths of light across the visible light spectrum. This student-led experiment will determine how different wavelengths of light, representing different colors, affect photosynthesis in a species of algae (Chlorella vulgaris). Results will determine the ideal colors to use when growing algae in microgravity, to be used as possible sources of oxygen, food, and fuel on future space missions.

SpaceX Dragon CRS 8 reaching ISS with CASIS ARK4 Payloads

SpaceX CRS-8 Payloads

Launch Date: April 8, 2016, 3:43AM EST

  • Microchannel Diffusion

    Houston Methodist Research Institute / Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D.

    This investigation will examine the mechanisms of chemical transport across nanochannel membranes developed for the delivery of biologically active molecules and nanoparticles as drugs from implants inside the body. This study examines fundamental transport phenomena in a microgravity environment to better understand how to fine tune drug delivery and dosage.

  • Eli Lilly Protein Crystal Growth

    Eli Lilly & Co. / Kris Gonzalez-DeWhitt, Michael Hickey

    A two-part experimental design in conjunction with a parallel set of Earth-based controls (also, a two-part design) will be followed to examine the crystallization of medically-relevant protein-ligand complexes in microgravity.

  • Eli Lilly Rodent Research Myostatin

    Eli Lilly & Co. / Rosamund Smith, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of anti-myostatin antibodies on muscle wasting in a microgravity environment, leveraging rodent models as subjects.

  • WETLAB-2

    NASA Ames Research Center / Julie Schonfeld

    The WetLab-2 system enables ISS investigators working with prokaryotic or eukaryotic cell cultures, and with animal or plant tissues, to process those samples and extract puri ed high-quality RNA, that can then be used for on-orbit real time gene expression analysis, or for return to Earth examination. Through initial focused experiments conducted on the ISS, both NASA and CASIS will validate the conditions for this hardware facility for future inquiry onboard the station.

  • Genes in Space

    Anna-Sophia Boguraev, Student (In partnership with The Boeing Company and Math for America)

    Student experiment involving DNA Amplification using a miniPCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machine onboard ISS. This is the winning student experiment from the Genes in Space innovation challenge. This challenge invited participants to propose pioneering DNA amplification experiments using the unique environment of the ISS.

Cygnus OA-6 Approaching ISS for CASIS ARK4 Mission

Orbital ATK CRS-6 Payloads

Launch Date: March 23, 2016, 11:05AM EST

  • Additive Manufacturing Facility

    Made In Space, Inc. / Michael Snyder

    The ability to create on-demand hardware through 3-D printing on the ISS will benefit crew and researchers interested in space-based R&D—as well as advancing the field of additive manufacturing, enabling systems that are more efficient and generate less waste on Earth. The Additive Manufacturing Facility will enable 3D-printing projects from commercial, educational, and government entities interested in the development of objects for experiments and technology demonstrations. These objects will be produced onboard the ISS in a fraction of the time currently required to have such objects manifested and delivered to the station using traditional ground preparation and launch.

  • Project Meteor

    Southwest Research Institute / Michael Fortenbary

    This project will launch a visible spectroscopy instrument for meteor observations. Project Meteor will enable monitoring of meteor interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere without the interference of ozone absorption. The resultant data will be the first measurement of meteor flux and will allow for remote monitoring of carbon- based compounds in the meteor. Investigation of meteor elemental composition is important to our understanding of the origin and evolution of planets in our solar system.


About CASIS and the ISS US National Lab Partnership with NASA

CASIS & The ISS National Lab

Advancing Research in Space for the Benefit of Earth

In 2011 the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) was appointed to be the sole manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. The mission of CASIS is to maximize use of this unparalleled platform for innovation, which can benefit all humankind and inspire a new generation to look to the stars.

The organization has been awarded by NASA the responsibility of inciting the imagination of entrepreneurs and scientists alike, accelerating and facilitating space-based research as well as creating public awareness of National Lab research and making space science more accessible to the world.

By carefully selecting research and funding projects, by connecting investors looking for opportunity to scientists with great ideas, and by making access to the station faster and easier, CASIS will drive scientific inquiry toward developing groundbreaking new technologies and products that will tangibly affect our lives.

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