Eleven years ago, Congress designated a portion of the International Space Station (ISS) as the latest and most amazing of America’s National Labs. Concurrently, America embarked on a pathway that allowed for commercial services in the growing low-earth marketplace.
In these eleven years, so much has changed. Private industry responded to the ISS National Lab with research proposals ranging from cancer research to plant growth and everything in between. Transportation to and from the ISS is as reliable as Congress dreamed. Industry has made sizeable capital investments. And NASA responded by supporting utilization both as a partner and a customer. Nanoracks broke barriers, being the first to own and operate an extensive range of research hardware for commercial hardware. Today we are the global leader in commercial ISS utilization, with over 1,300 research experiments launched and nearly 300 small satellites deployed – and many more to come.

Now, given the increasing maturity of the LEO ecosystem, it is time for Nanoracks to take the next step in driving LEO utilization operations. After intensive investigation and discussion with industry experts, I am delighted to announce that the Nanoracks collection of hardware on the ISS will henceforth be operated as a Science Park. A Science Park is a well-known business model that brings together companies and organizations in a shared endeavor, and I am thrilled to share our Science Park will be named for the great American agriculture scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver.

The choice to name the Nanoracks’ Science Park for Dr. Carver, is a personal one. My father, a writer, landed an assignment when I was a young teenager to write a book about George Washington Carver. I remember his stories of this remarkable man, born into slavery, who is credited with saving the rural economy and revitalizing farm land of the post-Civil War American South by introducing the peanut and soybean into the farm ecosystem. His research led to the development of over 300 food, industrials and commercial products, from cooking oils to cosmetics and antiseptics. As Nanoracks dove into space-based AgTech, including developing StarLab Oasis, a wholly dedicated company to astrobiology research, I reread my father’s book, Wizard of Tuskegee, the Life of George Washington Carver. It was immediately clear that our Science Park should honor Dr. Carver. Read more on the Science Park and Carver in the Q&A.

Through the the George Washington Carver (GWC) Science Park, Nanoracks will achieve greater commercial sustainability and a clearer organizational focus for space station utilization. The George Washington Carver (GSC) Science Park has been accepted as the first in-space member of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) and will utilize the expertise of the IASP and other Science Park experts skilled in bringing research and products from inception to the marketplace.

In the coming months we will be announcing a host of new hardware, management, and operational partners to the GWC Science Park. Our relationship with NASA remains unchanged as guided by Nanoracks’ multiple Space Act Agreements, as does our relationship with CASIS, the NGO that operates the U.S. National Lab.

To our customers: We can’t wait to show you all the new opportunities and streamlined access that the GWC Science Park will soon provide. Our promise to you is that this first-ever Science Park in space will be as robust as the scientists, innovators, and dreamers on Earth’s Science Parks could possibly expect of the best terrestrial facilities.

I encourage everyone to read my longer Q&A on these exciting efforts and ­­look forward to sharing more updates with our community soon.

Jeffrey Manber