Fulfil a Lifelong Dream: Get Your Experiment aboard the ISS

What pops into your mind when I say ice cubes? Most likely cold drinks. They are a nice add-on aren’t they? In this case, the ice cubes I’m talking about are not add-ons, but smart containers for experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). What for? Experiments. Future-oriented experiments in microgravity on board the ISS.

Getting your experiment aboard the ISS has never been easier. And you have the chance to conduct research in space with the European Space Agency (ESA) New Business Ideas Prize of the Space Exploration Masters – Europe’s first innovation competition dedicated to space exploration. And we are not talking about in 20 years: The first experiments of the International Commercial Experiment Cubes Service (ICE Cubes) infrastructure are scheduled for 2018! They represent the first European commercial opportunity to perform research in space on the ISS. More precisely, they enable research in microgravity inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory aboard the ISS.


ICE Cubes in Space for Earth

What does it take to fulfil your dream of a lifetime and beam your experiment to the ISS? The answer is ICE Cubes. They sound like the perfect match to a refreshing drink. But actually, they are small modular containers – 10x10x10 centimeters – integrated into a rack with the size of a microwave oven. They are connected to electrical power and monitoring systems. Thereby they are able to transmit experiment data back to Earth through the ISS infrastructure. Through the ICE Cubes Control Centre continuous access to the cubes is ensured in near real-time from offices, classrooms or laboratories. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have access to ICE Cubes own mission control software or have the option of using the ICE Cubes API to build your own? The winners of ESA’s New Business Ideas Prize will be able to, by using this unique commercial possibility to conduct research in weightlessness.

ICE Cubes in Columbus mockup

The ICE Cubes research and technology platform with experimental cubes establishes a frequent and fast-track service in low Earth orbit (LEO). ICE Cubes allows to make the unique environment of microgravity more accessible to anyone who conducts forward-thinking experiments. In 2018, the first five experimental cubes will be on the ISS. ICE Cube’s service includes the launch, operations and possible return of the cubes.

Your Benefits of the ESA Prize

ESA jointly with Space Applications Services, the commercial partner marketing ICE Cubes services, offers this outstanding prize:

  • Flight and operations of the Experiment Cube [1U-size] on the International Space Station with 4-month service
  • Guidelines and mentorship for the development of the payload accommodated into the Cube [1U-size]
  • Certificate of recognition: ESA Business Innovation Idea Master Award
  • Dedicated press release on the ESA Space Exploration Benefits Website


Have a look at all the topic-specific challenges: www.space-exploration-masters.com/#prize-categories

What ESA is Specifically Looking For?

ESA is in search of the best business innovation idea to advance the goals of the ESA Space Exploration Strategy. In this regard, an innovative and disruptive case with a tangible business performance in matching one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is ESA’s particular focus. Proposed ideas and solutions from innovators, entrepreneurs and R&D related professionals in the following exemplary areas are of high interest:

  • biomedicine & biotechnology with related in-situ diagnostics / imaging systems
  • fluid / particles physics and material sciences and related applications such as detergents, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food and agricultural chemicals
  • oil & gas, e.g. fluid diffusion coefficient studies in the context of oil fields modelling

The submitted ideas should address an identified problem with a clear business case and hence benefit from the ICE Cubes infrastructure.

About the Space Exploration Masters

In 2017, AZO has launched the Space Exploration Masters on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and in line with the goals of the ESA Space Exploration Strategy, in cooperation with strong world-class partners. The Space Exploration Masters is an international competition to identify best technology transfer business successes, as well as to empower and foster business innovation around space exploration activities in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the Moon, Mars, or beyond – for the benefit of society and Earth.

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