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Two Startups Awarded Projects Leveraging the ISS National Lab Through MassChallenge

Press Release From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Center for the Advancement of Science and Space, Inc. (CASIS) and Boeing [NYSE: BA] are awarding up to $500,000 in grants to two startup companies through the Technology in Space Prize. The startups, krtkl inc. and Oculogenex, Inc., were identified through the MassChallenge (Boston) startup accelerator program. The companies will leverage the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, managed by CASIS, to further their research and technology development in low Earth orbit.

This marks the seventh time CASIS and Boeing have collaborated to fund research from startups through the Technology in Space Prize. To date, a total of $5 million has been awarded to 29 projects through the prize. Many of these projects have already launched to station. For example, LambdaVision took advantage of microgravity conditions to improve the manufacturing process for the company’s artificial retina, and RevBio (formerly LaunchPad Medical) utilized the ISS to test an injectable bone glue to accelerate bone repair. Many startups awarded the Technology in Space Prize have gone on to obtain additional funding from outside sources to further advance their research.

“Over the years, this unique funding alliance has opened doors to a variety of innovative companies that did not realize the space station could be a conduit for advancing their research and development,” said Christine Kretz, vice president of programs and partnerships for the ISS National Laboratory. “The Technology in Space Prize continues to represent a shining example of partnership and collaboration that enables opportunity, advances science in low Earth orbit, and supports startups in space. Thank you to Boeing and MassChallenge, and congratulations to the newest Technology in Space Prize awardees.”

Grants to the 2021 awardees (details below) will provide seed funding and assist with hardware costs for flight projects using ISS National Lab flight and crew time allocation. Final award of any grant money is contingent upon acceptance of legal terms and conditions between the recipient, CASIS, and Boeing.

krtkl inc.

Radiation-Tolerant Space Mesh Router for High-Bandwidth Satellite Communications

This project will leverage the ISS to test and qualify the performance a new hardware platform for intersatellite communications. The novel hardware is designed to provide high-bandwidth, high-reliability mesh networking and data processing in space. Successful results will allow the company to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of the hardware to TRL 8, signifying the hardware is fully qualified for use in space. This project will use the MISSE Flight Facility, owned and operated by Aegis Aerospace (formed through the merger of Alpha Space and MEI Technologies), on the exterior of the ISS. Testing in the space environment will provide data on how the hardware responds to long-term radiation exposure, allowing the company to identify failure modes and examine performance degradation over time. It will also enable evaluation of the hardware’s resilience during launch and transport. Once fully qualified, the hardware will be used in a variety of applications, including satellites providing high-speed global broadband internet and high-performance orbital sensing for hyperspectral imaging of Earth and weather monitoring.

Oculogenex, Inc.

Preclinical Validation of a Modifier Gene Therapy to Prevent Spaceflight-Associated Oxidative Stress and Apoptosis in Microgravity Model of Dry Macular Degeneration

This project seeks to test a novel gene therapy in a rodent model on the ISS for preventing vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD affects nearly 200 million people worldwide, and there is currently no available treatment for the most common form of the disease. Rodents exposed to spaceflight conditions provide a disease model for AMD because oxidative stress induced by spaceflight may trigger the same pathways that cause retinal cell death in patients with AMD. Oculogenex has identified a gene of interest that could help the company develop a new gene therapy to prevent AMD-related vision loss in millions of Americans. The company will send 20 mice treated with the gene therapy and 20 untreated mice to the ISS. This project will allow the company to determine whether the gene therapy can prevent spaceflight-induced retinal dysfunction and degeneration, serving as a disease model for AMD.

To learn more about the ISS National Lab, including current research announcements to propose projects that leverage the orbiting platform, please visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.

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About the International Space Station (ISS) 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 www.ISSNationalLab.org.


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