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Number of locations
|5 (4 are terrestrial, 1 is lab space on ISS in low-Earth orbit)|
|Jeffrey Manber, Richard Pournelle, Chris Cummins, Richard Gruver, Mike Lewis, Marcia Blount, Carl Carruthers|
|Services||in-space services; small satellite launch services; CubeSat launch services; microgravity payload integration|
Number of employees
NanoRacks LLC is a private company that develops products and offers services for the commercial utilization of space.
 NanoRacks hosts a CubeSat Deployer and equipment for experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). NanoRacks services include reviewing space payloads to ensure they meet NASA's safety and other technical requirements. In July 2015, NanoRacks announced an agreement with Blue Origin to offer business development services for the Blue Shepard New Shepard Suborbital Vehicle. In August 2016, the NanoRacks-led Ixion Initiative Team, which also includes Space Systems Loral and United Launch Alliance, was selected as one of NASA's NextSTEP-2 partnerships to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study on repurposing rocket upper stages into commercial space station habitats.
NanoRacks’ main office is in Houston, Texas, alongside the NASA Johnson Space Center. The business development office is in Washington, D.C., and additional offices are located in Silicon Valley and Europe. NanoRacks provides tools, hardware and services that allow other companies, organizations and governments to conduct research and other projects in space.
NanoRacks enables space research and in-space services to customers world-wide from multiple platforms and launch vehicles. Through both NanoRacks and the educational DreamUp, the company offers low-cost, high-quality solutions to the most pressing needs for satellite deployment, basic and educational research and both at home and in 30 nations world-wide for those new to the industry and aerospace veterans. For the past seven years, the Texas-based NanoRacks has truly created new markets, and ushered in a new era of in space-services.
NanoRacks facilities on the U.S. National Lab on the ISS include NanoLab research modules, a centrifuge, a plate reader, and MixStix mixing enclosures. Since 2009, over 580 payloads have been sent to the International Space Station.
NanoRacks partners with the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, along with the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education.
NanoRacks customers include the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Space Agency (DLR), NASA, US Government Agencies, Planet Labs, Urthecast, Space Florida, NCESSE, Virgin Galactic, pharmaceutical drug companies, and organizations in Vietnam, UK, Romania and Israel.
- 1 History
- 2 Facilities and labs
- 3 Notable Accomplishments & Awards
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
NanoRacks was founded in 2009 by Jeffrey Manber and Charles Miller to provide commercial hardware and services for the U.S. National Laboratory on board the International Space Station via a Space Act Agreement with NASA. NanoRacks signed their first contract with NASA in September 2009 and had their first laboratory on the Space Station in April 2010.
MirCorp CEO Jeff Manber oversaw the first and only commercially funded mission of the Russian space station, which lasted over 70 days. Manber was, and still is, the only American to ever work officially for the Russian space program.
As of June 2015, NanoRacks has deployed 64 satellites into Lower Earth Orbit, and had 16 satellites on the ISS awaiting deployment, with an order backlog of 99.
As of August 2017, 580 payloads have been launched to the International Space Station, including the deployment of nearly 200 CubeSats from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD).
In 2012, NanoRacks "generated more than $3 million in revenue, of which only one-quarter comes from NASA."
In August 2012, NanoRacks partnered with Space Florida to host the Space Florida International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition. As part of this program, NanoRacks and DreamUp provide research NanoLab box units to fly payloads to the ISS, with scientific research to be conducted on board the U.S. National Lab.
In October 2013, NanoRacks became the first company to coordinate the deployment of small satellites from the ISS via the airlock in the Japanese KIBO module. This deployment was done by NanoRacks using the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD).
In December 2014, DreamUp.org, the website for the educational arm of NanoRacks, was launched. DreamUp offers world-class, low-cost access to commercial research platforms in suborbital and low-Earth orbit. The DreamUp Advisory Board, made up of industry experts Ken Shields and Jeffrey Manber assigns ‘DreamUp Approved’ status to projects declared realistic, doable, and in accordance with standard safety criteria. Through partnerships with organizations such as SSEP and Valley Christian High School, NanoRacks and DreamUp have helped launch dozens of student experiments to space and immerse hundreds of students in the space research experience.
In July 2015, NanoRacks announced it was teaming with Blue Origin to provide standardized, commercial payload accommodation services on Blue Origin’s New Shepard Suborbital Vehicle. NanoRacks provides services such as payload design and development, safety approvals, and integration for suborbital research payloads.
In August 2015, NanoRacks announced a historic agreement to fly a Chinese DNA experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology on the International Space Station. The agreement includes NanoRacks delivering the experiment to the American side of the ISS in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and berthing the experiment to NanoRacks’ orbiting laboratory facilities. NanoRacks will then send data back to the Chinese researchers.
In August 2015, the NanoRacks External Payload Platform (NREP) was successfully launched to the ISS on the fifth flight of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV). The external platform will be able to accommodate up to 9 4U CubeSat-size payloads outside of the space station with a standard mission duration of 15 weeks. The platform is operational as of August 2016.
In August 2015, Space Angels Network joined with NanoRacks and DreamUp to support and invest in STEM education and early stage-space companies by using the DreamUp Approved system.
In December 2015, NanoRacks announced the formal creation of DreamUp, PBC. The goal behind DreamUp, PBC. was to make space research available to university students and researchers in the U.S. as well as a dozen other countries. Via crowdfunding, DreamUp hopes to take space-based education to a “whole new level.”
NanoRacks Flight History
09/14/2017 - SpaceX-12
06/03/2017 - SpaceX-11
02/19/2017 - SpaceX-10
04/18/2017 – OA-7 – Cygnus
03/23/2016 – OA-6 – Cygnus
02/19/2017 – SpaceX-10 – Dragon
12/09/2016 – HTV-6
10/17/2016 – OA-5 – Antares, Cygnus
07/18/2016 – SpaceX-9 – Dragon
04/08/2016 – SpaceX-8 – Dragon
06/28/2015 – SpaceX-7 – Dragon (Failed Launch)
04/14/2015 – SpaceX-6 – Dragon
01/10/2015 – SpaceX-5 – Dragon
10/28/2014 – Orb-3 – Cygnus (Failed Launch)
09/23/2014 – SpaceX-4 – Dragon
07/13/2014 – Orb-2 – Cygnus
04/18/2014 – SpaceX-3 – Dragon
01/09/2014 – Orb-1 – Cygnus
09/18/2013 – Orb-D1 – Cygnus
08/03/2013 – HTV-4
06/05/2013 – ATV-4
07/21/2012 – HTV-3
03/23/2012 – ATV-3
03/01/2013 – SpaceX-2
10/08/2012 – SpaceX-1
05/28/2013 – Soyuz 35S
03/28/2013 – Soyuz 34S
07/15/2012 – Soyuz 31S
07/08/2011 – STS-135
05/16/2011 – STS-134
04/28/2010 – Progress M-05M
Facilities and labs
Internal ISS Services
NanoRacks facilities on the International Space Station (ISS) include:
- NanoRacks Frame-3 accommodates a total of 3 4U payloads (with the dimensions 10cm x 20cm x 20cm) and has advanced features such as an internal computer with its own crew interface facility for easier payload software development. The Frame-3 can also provide up to 50W of power to a payload through a USB or other forms of data connections.
- NanoRacks MixStix - NanoRacks’ Mixture Enclosure Tubes (MixStix) hold up to twenty-four mixing sticks. This enclosure allows for microgravity reactions and materials to be captured for analysis on the ISS, or returned back to Earth via either the Soyuz or SpaceX's Dragon. The MixStix are activated, and analysis begins, after the mixing stick is cracked open by an ISS crewmember, similar to activating a glow stick.
- NanoRacks Microscope-3 – The third generation NanoRacks microscope system is a hand-held USB digital microscope with 20-240X magnification that creates 5MP pictures or video. Seven white LEDs provide lighting and the scope has a polarizing filter to reduce glare. Microscope-3 can also be mounted to its XY translation stage for extra stability. Two microplate holders can accommodate low profile microplates. The microplate holders are black or white for the specific research background required.
- NanoRacks Plate Reader-2 – a Molecular Devices SpectraMax M5e modified for space flight and the microgravity environment. This spectrophotometer analyzes samples by shining light (200-1000 nm) either on or through the top or bottom of each sample in the well of a microplate. The NanoRacks Plate Reader-2 can accommodate cuvettes in special microplate holders as well as 6-, 12-, 24-, 48-, 96-, and 384-well microplates. It can operate in absorbance, fluorescence intensity, or fluorescence polarization modes.  Lab space on the ISS is provided to NanoRacks by NASA under a contractual lease arrangement.
- NanoRacks-Black Box is an essential part of NanoRacks; next-gen International Space Station platforms. This platform was designed to increase the payload turnover of autonomous payloads while simultaneously providing advanced scientific capabilities to customers, including the use of robotics, new automated MixStix, and NanoLab-style research. The platform itself is the size of a locker and can accommodate payloads up to 18U. Black Box was first utilized on the OA-5 resupply mission.
External ISS Services
NanoRacks deploys small CubeSats into orbit from the ISS through the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer via the airlock in the Japanese Kibo module, after the satellites are transported to the ISS on a cargo spacecraft. When released, the small satellites are provided a push of about 1 meter per second (3.3 ft/s) that begins a slow process of satellite separation from the ISS.
The NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) is a self-contained deployment system that mechanically and electrically isolates CubeSats from the ISS, the ISS crew, and cargo resupply vehicles. The design of the NRCSD is compliant with the ISS flight safety requirements and is space qualified.
The deployer is composed of anodized aluminum plates, access panels, deployer doors, and a base plate assembly. The inside of the NRCSD is designed to minimize and/or preclude the jamming of CubeSat appendages during deployment.
Each CubeSat deployer is capable of holding 48U of CubeSats.
The NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) was successfully installed in August 2016. The self-funded NREP is the first-ever commercial gateway-and-return to the extreme environment of space. Following the CubeSat form factor, payloads can now experience the microgravity, radiation and other harsh elements native to the space environment, observe earth, test sensors, materials, and electronics, all while having the opportunity to return the payload back to Earth.
The NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer is a reusable system that allows the International Space Station to control and command satellite deployments. The Kaber was developed based off NanoRacks’ experience deploying CubeSats from the ISS. This service enables NanoRacks to deploy microsatellites up to 82 kg into space. Microsatellites that are compatible with the Kaber Deployer have additional power, volume, and communication resources, which allows for deployments of higher scope and sophistication.
External Cygnus Deployer (E-NRCSD)
Part of a historic program, this revolutionary and innovative satellite deployment service enabled satellites to be deployed at an altitude higher than the ISS via a Commercial Resupply Vehicle. These satellites are deployed after the completion of the primary cargo delivery mission and, soring 500 kilometers above the Earth and ca. 100 kilometers above the ISS, this service opens the door for the development of new technology, in addition to extending the life of CubeSats already deployed in low-Earth orbit. The Cygnus Deployer holds a total volume of 36U and adds approximately two years to the lifespan of these satellites.
- The OA-6 mission was launched 23 March 2016 at 3:05:52 UTC. Inside the Cygnus was the Saffire scientific payload. Mounted outside of the Cygnus was a CubeSat deployer by NanoRacks. Both of these systems remained inactive during the Cygnus’ docking at the ISS. After the OA-6 resupply mission was completed, and the Cygnus was unberthed from the station, these two services got the chance to perform unprecedented, weeklong scientific experiments. The Saffire’s purpose was to study combustion in microgravity, which was done once Cygnus left the ISS. Likewise, in between the OA-6’s initiation and its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, numerous Cubesats were deployed into orbit for the commercial entities that built and operate them.
- The OA-5 mission was launched 17 October 2016 at 23:45 UTC. On November 25, 2016, during the OA-5 resupply mission, NanoRacks successfully deployed four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats from the Cygnus Cargo Vehicle from a 500-kilometer orbit. “The External Cygnus Deployment program was developed with the customer in-mind,” says NanoRacks CTO Mike Lewis. Reusing and repurposing in-space vehicles is a quintessential part of NanoRacks’ vision.
- The OA-7 mission was launched 18 April 2017 at 15:11:26 UTC. On Cygnus’ eighth resupply mission, NanoRacks successfully deployed four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats at a nearly 500-kilometer orbit. Since then, NanoRacks has continued to grow its External Deployment program, which is focused on extending the mission of cargo vehicles after Cygnus’s deployment from the ISS. This program is a stepping-stone in NanoRacks’ larger goal: the repurposing of in-space vehicles. The OA-7 launch accompanied the Company’s largest CubeSat mission to date. During this mission, a total of 38 satellites were released into orbit.
- The OA-8 mission was targeting a launch in September, with the OA-9E mission slated for 2018.
Recently, NanoRacks announced that the company is adding polar orbit launches to their resume. The company plans to work with Berlin-based Astrofein to create and supply the deployers. In addition, NanoRacks is seeking help from the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, Antrix, for Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) services.
Due to recent customer demands for polar orbits, NanoRacks plans on seeing it through. These polar orbit opportunities come in addition to NanoRacks’ numerous deployments of satellites via the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) and Kaber Deployer on the ISS as well as the External NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (E-NRCSD) mounted outside of the Cygnus spacecraft.
NanoRacks chose to partner with Astrofein due to their 20 years of experience in aviation and spaceflight and 100 percent success rate.
Blue Origin Services
Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle grants customers the opportunity to research Earth, atmospheric, and space sciences. It can also be implemented for land use as well as technological and space systems development.
The New Shepard was designed for users to explore microgravity physics and gravitational biology, as well as for technological demonstrations. Its primary capabilities include its ability to frequently launch payloads, high volume cabin that can host multiple experiments (and researchers), and rapid post-landing access, in addition to the many interfaces available to mount experiments.
The New Shepard comes in two sizes, single and double. The single size has a payload mass of 25 lbs (11.34 kg) and a payload volume of 1.73 ft3 (49 liters). The approximate interior dimensions are 20.3 x 16.5 x 9.0 in (51.6 x 41.8 x 22.9 cm), and can maintain 28 VDC, with a 200 W peak.
The double size has a payload mass of 50 lbs (22.68 kg) and a payload volume of 3.61 ft3 (102 liters). The approximate interior dimensions are 20.3 x 16.5 x 18.7 in (51.6 x 41.8 x 47.4 cm), and can maintain 28 VDC, with a 200 W peak.
Both have 32 GB of on-board storage with synchronized flight parameter measurements, and an extra 128 GB of video storage available for post-flight download.
Commercial Space Stations
NanoRacks, after finalizing its contract with NASA, and after winning NextSTEPs Phase II award, is now developing its concept Ixion, which would turn spent rocket tanks into a habitable living area to be tested out in space.
When a satellite launches on top of a rocket, the probe is delivered into orbit by the vehicle’s upper stage. This upper stage contains separate engine(s) and fuel. After the satellite has been deployed, there’s a lot of empty space leftover. NanoRacks plans on reusing this upper stage to create a livable habitat.
A crew—either of humans or robots—will come in to outfit the empty metal shell. The inside would be furnished with foldable fabrics to make the interior comfier and more astronaut-friendly.
NanoRacks Airlock Module
In February 2017, NanoRacks, LLC. announced they have partnered with Boeing to build and install the first commercial airlock module. The airlock module would eventually be attached to the US segment of the ISS.
The module will be both a permanent commercial unscrewed module, and a module capable of being removed from the space station to be used on a future commercial platform. The goal is to have an airlock that could be detached and placed onto another on-orbit platform.
As of July 2017, tests confirmed that astronauts can successfully maneuver around the structure and mounted payloads through the assistance of strategically placed handrails.
The estimated launch date for the Airlock module is set for 2019.
Notable Accomplishments & Awards
- Launching of the first-ever Chinese experiment on the International Space Station
- QB50 ISS Program (28 CubeSats – note, these satellite are listed under “QB50 Satellites” in the press releases—other satellites listed are not a part of the QB50 program)
- First ever commercial Airlock
- Johnson Space Center Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year award
- Jeffrey Manber receives Pioneer in NewSpace award
- Private spaceflight
- Small satellite
- Center for the Advancement of Science in Space
- Blue Origin
- Space Angels Network
- Dragon spacecraft
- Orbital ATK
- Orbital Sciences Cygnus
- H-II Transfer Vehicle
- Soyuz (spacecraft)
- Planet Labs
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- http://www.dreamup.org/all-star-programs/#Space Florida ISS Research Competition
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- Foust, Jeff (2014-03-24). "Making the most of the ISS". The Space Review. 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- "NanoRacks External Platform Deployed Outside the ISS". nanoracks.com. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
- Company website
- XO Markets
- NASA - NanoRacks Platforms
- NanoRacks Is The UPS Of Outer Space Shipping, FastCompany profile, 12 August 2012.
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