A team of researchers from the UAB School of Engineering recently was awarded a five-year contract as an implementation partner with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

CASIS is the sole manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, and it routinely issues requests for proposals to solicit high-level research projects. With this contract, the UAB Engineering Innovation and Technology Development (EITD) will be one of approximately 10-12 implementation partners who will help facilitate that research.

Sustaining Success

The recent contract with CASIS is one of several contracts EITD has signed for work related to the International Space Station. Read more at the links below.

“When CASIS began sending out requests for proposals a few years ago, they found that there were some very interesting proposals that were coming from investigators or organizations that didn’t have the engineering background or capability to put experiments in flight or to build a system that could operate on the ISS,” said Dan Connor, EITD project manager. “These implementation contracts were designed so that groups like the EITD can provide whatever support the investigators need to see these projects through.”

This contract is one of a long line of interactions between the EITD team, CASIS, NASA, and the ISS. Previously organized under the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering, the EITD team conducted experiments around protein crystal growth for more than 25 years. Over the past decade, it has turned its attention to the development and maintenance of a line of refrigerators, incubators and freezers that are used for transport of science experiments to and from the ISS as well as on-orbit utilization.

“We have a strong track record of work with these types of projects,” said Connor, “including most recently a contract to develop a rapid-freeze system. With our background, we can provide science support, engineering support, engineering integration and real-time operation support, in addition to post-flight analysis and data collection.”

Assisting the EITD team with certain aspects of the science proposals will be Debasish Chattopadhyay (Champy), Ph.D., a professor in the UAB School of Medicine.

“In our contracts with CASIS, they would write a task order that would vary depending on the investigators’ capabilities,” Connor says. “If they have little or no experience, CASIS would include Dr. Champy for his structural biology capabilities as well as his familiarity with our systems to provide support to the research teams. So he would assist with the science, while our team would work with the hardware systems.”

Initially, key players from the EITD would include Connor, Ashlyn Manzella, and Rob Roleau, but he says personnel could vary from task to task, depending on the work load. “We’ll have to wait and see what research Task Orders CASIS puts out,” Connor said. “Those will be awarded in the spring of 2017, so we’re looking forward to seeing what sorts of projects they have in store.”