The SSEP Step 2 Review Panel completed its work late afternoon, Tuesday November 23, 2010. We are extremely excited to say that sixteen proposals were tentatively selected for flight on STS-134, one for each of the communities participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP).
Experiments selected for flight now move to the next phase, which is the requirement that they pass a NASA toxicology (flight safety) review. To this end, the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) was scheduled to provide Instrumentation Technology Associates (ITA) and NanoRacks the formal list of fluids and solids on Friday, November 26. However, ITA and NanoRacks have extended the deadline to Monday November 29 due to a critical issue identified by the Step 2 Review Panel, which requires critical input from the winning experiments’ student teams after they return from Thanksgiving break.
ALL SSEP COMMUNITY PROGRAM DIRECTORS ARE URGED TO STAND BY FOR AN EMAIL NOTIFICATION OF NEEDED INFORMATION, WHICH WILL REQUIRE RAPID RESPONSE BY YOUR STUDENT TEAM.
DR. HARRI VANHALA, SSEP NATIONAL PROGRAM MANAGER, WILL BE SENDING AN EMAIL ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2010, WITH AN URGENT REQUEST FOR INFORMATION BY 3:00 PM EASTERN TIME, MONDAY NOVEMBER 29, 2010.
The Critical Problem:
On Wednesday, November 24, NCESSE reviewed the Step 2 Review Panel’s recommendations and comments. One issue pointed out across all 4 review teams was that many of the proposals did not precisely specify what was to be placed in the wells (small test tubes), i.e., did not precisely specify the fluids/solids in each well, and their concentrations. This is absolutely critical for the experiment to move to flight safety review. This problem is also associated with experiments selected for flight, and the missing information could have an impact on the selection. An example:
What was provided in proposal: “Glucose Solution” loaded in one well
Problems: “Glucose” is on the Master List of Experiment Samples, as is “Water” and “Distilled Water”, but “Glucose Solution” is not. The Review Panel was then left to guess if the proposing team was assuming Glucose Solution is Glucose dissolved in Water or Distilled Water (either of which would be acceptable), and the Review Panel had no idea of the concentration of the glucose in the solution. In this case, the student team MUST fully specify what they mean by Glucose Solution AND the concentration. This precise information must be provided to ITA and NanoRacks, who will in turn provide it to NASA Toxicology. On a related note, the student team must also recognize that they are responsible for providing the solution as specified, in the correct concentration to ITA (see Notes below.)
In addition, special handling instructions were often provided that were ambiguous as to whether this was special handling by the student team delivering the samples to ITA or a special handling request of ITA by the student team. In a number of cases, if it was a request of ITA, ITA was not capable of addressing the request. These cases require critical follow-up with the student teams.
We have therefore decided not to announce the formal winners until we get in touch with each team tentatively identified as a winner, on Monday, November 29, 2010, after Thanksgiving break, and confirm we have all the needed information, and there is nothing preventing the experiment from proceeding to flight safety review.
We will be sending an email to your community’s SSEP Program Director, and where we have the contact information, to the Teacher Facilitator for your student team tentatively identified as a winner, to confirm that the information we have on the fluids/solids and special handling is correct, and to obtain any missing information. THIS INFORMATION MUST BE PROVIDED TO NCESSE BY 3:00 PM EASTERN TIME MONDAY NOVEMBER 29, 2010.
1. Experiment wells containing fluids MUST be completely filled, see the “Filling the Wells” constraint at: http://ssep.ncesse.org/sts134-flight-experiment/mda/. A number of experiments incorrectly indicated that wells were only to be partially filled, presumably to leave a pocket of air. This is not possible.
2. All winning student teams are responsible for supplying their precise fluids/solids — at the correct concentrations — at two separate times. The first batch of fluids/solids provided will be used by ITA to conduct a Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test in December, and then near launch a second batch will be loaded into the mini-laboratory for flight. To conduct the Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test, student teams must be ready to provide ITA the first batch of their fluids/solids in vials by December 26 OR EARLIER (see Timeline for Selected Experiments at http://ssep.ncesse.org/how-to-participate/). Failure to meet this deadline can result in loss of the flight opportunity. Student teams must also be prepared to rapidly respond to requests relative to their experiment over Christmas/New Years break.
3. Student teams with experiments selected for flight can continue to refine their experiments until January 26, but any modification to their list of samples is limited to varying the concentrations, more specifically, lowering of concentrations, and not addition of new sample materials (see Timeline for Selected Experiments at http://ssep.ncesse.org/how-to-participate/).
The SSEP on-orbit research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.