The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS), manager of the ISS National Lab, today announced a sustainability challenge in partnership with leading global prestige beauty brand Estée Lauder. The ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics aims to utilize the orbiting laboratory to advance sustainability research that addresses the plastics dilemma.

The Sustainability Challenge is an open solicitation for U.S. entities to propose flight projects that leverage the space station to tackle plastics waste and enable scientific or technological advancements that improve Earth’s environment. Building on the brand’s long-term sustainability goals, Estée Lauder intends to provide funding to support one or more flight projects awarded through this Sustainability Challenge.

Plastic waste is highly prevalent on the Earth. It is in the land, the sea, and the atmosphere. The ISS represents a one-of-a-kind platform capable of enabling scientific and technological discoveries that can mitigate the widespread effects of plastic pollution. In 2019, the ISS National Lab held a sustainability workshop focused on how the orbiting laboratory could address plastic pollution in Earth’s environment. This Sustainability Challenge builds on the workshop’s recommendations to address the plastics dilemma through the design and production of sustainable polymers aided by access to space.

The objective of the Sustainability Challenge is to use the unique ISS environment to develop, test, or mature products and processes that address at least one of the following goals:

  • Reduce plastic waste introduction into the environment
  • Seek alternative feedstocks and pathways for polymer production beyond petrochemicals
  • Reduce virgin plastic manufacturing

“We are so proud to be the funding partner of this ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge,” said Stéphane de La Faverie, Global Brand President, Estée Lauder & AERIN and Group President, The Estée Lauder Companies. “As a brand built on creativity and innovation, Estée Lauder is committed to fostering pioneering ideas in the areas of science and sustainability. Our hope is this challenge will give researchers the opportunity to submit groundbreaking concepts that may one day in the near future improve Earth’s environment.”

The Sustainability Challenge seeks flight projects that leverage the ISS National Lab for applied research and technology demonstration or maturation. Projects could be in existing or emerging technology areas that reduce plastic waste and consumption of water, energy, and/or petrochemical feedstocks in our environment. Projects that promise to address either the virgin production of polymers through sustainable feedstocks or the end of life of polymers to be biodegraded or upcycled are desired. Ideal projects will address both through a whole-of-life design approach that accounts for cradle-to-grave (biodegrading) or cradle-to-cradle (recycling or upcycling) approaches.

“The ISS National Lab is an off-Earth innovation platform that enables research and development that could lead to the discovery of unique solutions to sustainability challenges on Earth,” said Michael Roberts, Ph.D., acting chief scientist for the ISS National Laboratory. “We applaud Estée Lauder in their efforts to identify real-world solutions for global-scale issues through their support of the ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics. Through this challenge, we hope to reach audiences that will leverage the ISS National Lab to develop and test novel technologies to replace petroleum-based plastics. We look forward to working with the research community to explore new approaches that will benefit Earth through improvements in the chemical assembly and disassembly of plastics alternatives.”

As part of the Sustainability Challenge application process, applicants must first submit a Step 1a: Concept form for review. A subset of applicants with the most promising concepts will then be invited to submit a Step 1b: Presentation and pre-recorded “pitch” video describing their concept in more detail. A group of finalists will be chosen, and each finalist will be invited to participate in a Step 1c: Question and Answer (Q&A) call with the Sustainability Challenge expert judges, who will score and rank all finalists.

On March 19, 2022, a Sustainability Challenge event will be held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The one-day event will include a session in which the finalists’ recorded presentations will be showcased and livestreamed to a global audience. The event will also include a ceremony to recognize the top three ranked finalists. Following the event, all finalists will be invited to submit a Step 2: Full Proposal for a flight project leveraging the ISS National Lab.

The ISS National Lab will host a webinar on November 10 at 4 p.m. ET to provide an overview of the Sustainability Challenge topic areas. A second webinar will take place on November 17 at 4 p.m. to provide an overview of the submissions process. A recording of the webinars will be made available to the research community through the Sustainability Challenge webpage.

Step 1a: Concept submissions are due by end of day on December 6, 2021. Step 2: Full Proposals (from
those invited to submit) will be due by end of day May 9, 2022. For more information about this opportunity, including how to submit a Step 1: Concept, please visit the Sustainability Challenge webpage.

To learn more about the ISS National Lab and the science that it sponsors, please visit

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About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit

About Estée Lauder: Estée Lauder is the flagship brand of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. Founded by Estée Lauder, one of the world’s first female entrepreneurs, the brand today continues her legacy of creating innovative, sophisticated, high-performance skincare and makeup products and iconic fragrances – all infused with a deep understanding of women’s needs and desires. Today, Estée Lauder engages with customers in more than 150 countries and territories around the world and across dozens of touch points – from in-store to digital. And each of these relationships consistently reflects Estée’s powerful and authentic woman-to-woman point of view. Follow @esteelauder on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, TikTok and YouTube.