NASA has officially requested proposals from industry for International Space Station-based commercial research and industrial processes after ISS assembly is complete in 2010 and the Space Shuttle fleet is retired.

The request for proposals published on 14 August follows NASA's Congressionally directed ISS national laboratory report.

NASA's astronauts will conduct the private research at no charge when not working for the US space agency. However, the research customers will have to provide for their experiments' transport to the ISS and their disposal or return requirements as the Shuttle fleet will not be operating. Today, only Russia could provide experiment up mass with Progress supply vehicles and down mass with Soyuz manned spacecraft.

Under its ISS framework agreement NASA's international partners' on-board research facilities will be accessible to its astronauts for the private work. NASA has already held discussions with a number of interested companies.

Although the RFP is for private sector proposals NASA may also work with the US government's National Institutes of Health and its departments of commerce, energy and defence.