Research Opportunities with the International Space Station

I recently enjoyed the privilege of attending the International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) with support from the Rockefeller Center, and I can barely comprehend how many resources and opportunities this experience has provided me. From conversing with scientists about their bleeding-edge research to listening to CEOs and politicians share their visions for the future, the sheer amount of knowledge available at this conference was simply unbelievable. Not only do I now possess a much stronger understanding of current orbital research and technology, I am also enabled with the tools and connections to potentially bring Dartmouth research to the International Space Station.

A number of major figures were present at the ISSRDC, including senior members of NASA’s International Space Station program, representatives of the private aerospace industry, and international researchers seeking to create new relationships abroad. High profile speakers included but were not limited to Kate Rubins (NASA astronaut), Robert Bigelow (CEO of Bigelow Aerospace), and Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX and Tesla), making for quite the thrilling speaker lineup! All the speakers and panelists brought innovative commentary to a wide diversity of topics, including commercialization of space, education programs, and artificial intelligence. Even companies one may not expect to be invested in space are becoming increasingly involved with the International Space Station to help improve their products and protect the planet. Tupperware recently sent special plastic containers to the Station and is currently developing a passive hydroponics system for microgravity environments, and

Target has just announced a sizable fund for orbital research that can help reduce the company’s material and energy consumption in cotton clothing production. By attending a mix of keynote speeches, panels, and workshops offered at the ISSRDC, I now have a firm grasp on the current state of the International Space Station and the research opportunities available onboard. The key point? Dartmouth students CAN develop research projects, send hardware to the ISS, and receive data and/or samples within a surprisingly short timeframe without breaking the bank.

Several companies solely offer consulting services to help achieve this fast turnaround, comparable to visa agencies helping travelers reach their destinations with less difficulty. With help from companies like STAARS or DreamUp, a small, self-contained payload carrying experiment hardware can be sent into space for around ten grand. I would love to see the Dartmouth Aerospace Engineering Club utilize these resources and conduct research from orbit in the near future, perhaps with a prototype of our automated aeroponics plant growth system!

The ISSRDC was the absolute highlight of my summer term. In addition to feeding my aerospace and sci-fi fancy, the conference has enabled me to help bring Dartmouth and the International Space Station closer together. I am looking foward to hearing about the Dartmouth Aerospace Engineering Club’s future pursuits of orbital research. 

-Submitted by Christopher Yu '19, Rockefeller Center Mini Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.