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Overview. In the early days of the space program, it was determined that the effects of microgravity provided a unique environment that could potentially benefit humans. Over the life of the space shuttle and International Space Station programs, NASA has spent billions of dollars on microgravity infrastructure and research experiments in order to understand these effects. We have been responsible for the logistics for several hundred of these experiments on the space shuttle, the Russian Progress vehicle, the Mir Space Station, and the International Space Station.
On August 14, 2007, in an announcement that we believe bolsters the development of our microgravity business, NASA stated that it was seeking private industry proposals for research and manufacturing concepts and opportunities onboard the International Space Station. This announcement, along with Congress� designation of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory, indicates NASA�s desire to open the International Space Station for the benefit and profit of commercial projects. Because of our experience with microgravity, we believe that we are well positioned to transition from handling the logistics of microgravity research projects to a fully commercialized microgravity design, transportation and processing operation.
Microgravity Mission Design Initiative . Based upon our microgravity logistics experience, we expect to prepare and send complex processing facilities to space. This end-to-end service requires our core capabilities including:
Process and control analysis;
Flight hardware manufacturing;
Hardware test and certification;
Robotic facility development;
Payload containment systems;
Data communication systems; and
Safety analysis and certification.
Microgravity Transportation Initiative. SPACEHAB microgravity transportation will encompass the planning and preparation of microgravity payloads for installation and launch on a variety of launch systems including the space shuttle, Russian Soyuz, Progress and Photon, European ATV, Japanese HTV, our planned ARCTUS spacecraft, the SpaceX Corporation�s Dragon and Rocketplane Kistler�s K-1. These preparations will include preparing complex life science and material processing payloads to survive the extremities and complexities of a launch to microgravity. We expect to provide specialized transportation of payloads to the launch site and integrate payloads into the launch vehicle. Returning payloads will then be recovered at the landing site where our personnel will remove the payload and transport it to the post processing destination.
Microgravity Processing Initiative. As part of our microgravity processing initiative, we have analyzed the results of a number of the experiments that we were logistically responsible for on the space shuttle, the Russian Progress vehicle, the Mir Space Station, and the International Space Station. We have targeted potential products that we believe can be developed in microgravity, that are within our core capabilities and that we believe provide proven value. In anticipation of this function, our Logistics Training Module, located at the SPACEHAB Payload Processing Facility in Cape Canaveral Florida, is being retrofitted as a training facility for applications under our new microgravity processing initiative. We believe that this training facility will assist us with executing the very complex in-space processing procedures that will be necessary for us to successfully produce products developed in microgravity that are capable of being commercialized. In addition, we expect to also improve upon microgravity processing hardware, software, and production techniques to further improve our on-orbit processing capabilities and results. This includes remote process controls, robotics, data communications and flight hardware design and certification.
SpaceTech Initiative. In 2007, SpaceTech was formed to serve as a �technology incubator�. Through SpaceTech, we intend to commercialize products that we plan to produce in microgravity, secure the rights to and commercialize hardware and software designed for and used in space, and manufacture, sell, and distribute the end product to government and commercial consumers. SpaceTech has identified the following products that are in various stages of their product life cycles:
Under a Space Act Agreement with NASA, we began development of a mini-mass spectrometer, a small, portable, low power unit capable of detecting chemical compounds such as explosives, weapons of mass destruction, and toxic gases. We believe that this new ion trap technology will have many commercial terrestrial applications including Homeland Security applications such as airport, shipping port, and border control; medical applications including anesthesia expelled gas analysis and medicine production and contamination detection; chemical applications including polymer process control; and food processing applications which include process control, contamination, and spoil detection. Mockups of our mini-mass spectrometer have been tested and we are currently refining the design for commercial manufacturing. We are currently in negotiations with a company relating to the licensing, sales and distribution of the mini-mass spectrometer.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation have enacted new regulations for airline transportation of oxygen containers to enhance safety in the event of a fire. Applying decades of experience in the development of specialized containers, we are working with an industry partner to develop and certify a container to meet these new requirements. Early testing has proven successful. If we are successful in developing this product, we may have an opportunity to enter a new market.
With our many years of experience in human spaceflight, we became aware of various persistent problems regarding cargo transportation to and from Earth. One such problem is the containment of liquids in commonly used soft bag containers. These soft bags are widely used over hard containers due to the lighter weight materials they are constructed from and the need for more flexible materials that allow more efficient packing configurations. The inherent problem with soft bags is the difficulty in keeping them �water tight� in the microgravity environment and in such extreme conditions such as launch and reentry. The SPACEHAB Containment Bag was successfully designed and developed and flew its first mission on STS-118. We are in the process of having this product �flight qualified� for use by NASA on future space flights. We believe that this technology can also be used in Earth-based applications such as hazardous waste containment, bio-hazard containment, environmental clean-up operations, medical transportation applications, disaster recovery operations, and military applications.
Beginning with STS-9, NASA conducted numerous microgravity research projects related to protein crystal growth in space. However, due to the realignment of NASA�s goals, there are no further NASA-sponsored protein crystal growth efforts planned. Through the execution of our microgravity processing initiative, we expect to take full advantage of the microgravity protein crystal growth findings and infrastructure established by NASA. Protein crystals lead to the development of treatments that target diseases caused by aberrant protein function. Previous spaceflight research suggests that growing protein crystals in the microgravity environment of space offers the possibility of significantly increasing the x-ray diffraction quality of protein crystals. We believe that because of the high quality of these protein crystal structures, they may be used to better define the protein structures of diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer�s, Parkinson�s disease, Lou Gehrig�s disease and certain forms of cancer, which in turn may lead to the development of drugs capable of combating these diseases. If we are successful in developing protein crystals in microgravity, we expect to pre-sell these crystals to pharmaceutical companies.
Among the many life science experiments that were flown in our science module were tissue growth cultures. Spaceflight results suggested that skin grown under microgravity conditions has the potential for being utilized more effectively in skin grafting therapies. This is important for many medical applications including burn victims that would greatly benefit from the more complete tissue that can be grown in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. We will attempt to establish relationships with therapeutic companies in the sales and distribution of product related to this initiative.
New Astrotech Services
We believe that Astrotech is a recognized leader in commercial spacecraft processing services. Astrotech intends to expand its market by offering end-to-end assurance services to both commercial and government customers. These new services would extend Astrotech�s current relationships with customers� satellites from a few weeks of ground processing to multiple years of services throughout a satellite�s lifecycle. Specifically, we believe that there are hundreds of commercial and government satellites that could each be served for 10 years or longer by Astrotech�s new end-to-end space mission assurance services. We have been and will continue to research, along with our government and commercial customers, the capability to provide a wide range of on orbit services that includes the capability to provide additional station time, fleet management services, surveillance systems, and de-orbit services. The pursuit of these new offerings is expected to increase Astrotech revenue dramatically, but may require Astrotech to invest in new terrestrial and orbital capabilities.
New SPACEHAB Engineering Services Contracts
Our exceptional performance under the Program Integration and Control contract, including the government awarding us a perfect score of 100, led to us securing a contract for additional configuration and data management work in support of NASA�s Constellation Program. Additionally, we are currently responding to formal requests for proposals for similar support on the Orion Project Integration Contract and the Constellation Program Support Contract.