Critical Update on STS-135 Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

To: Community Representatives that have expressed interest in SSEP on STS-135, the Final Flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program–The Flight of Shuttle Atlantis

From: Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP National Program Director
Center Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education

There are a significant number of critical updates and milestones to report on SSEP for STS-135:

1. We have modified the Critical Timeline for SSEP on STS-135 so that Letters of Commitment of Funding are not due until March 18. The Program starts in the communities on March 21 (sooner if your Letter of Commitment of Funding is submitted early), and YOUR CONTRACT DOES NOT NEED TO BE SIGNED UNTIL APRIL 21. We want to get communities moving, and not deny participation because the contracting is taking time. See the new STS-135 Critical Timeline page.

2. February 13, 2011: NASA Managers insist STS-135 will fly “regardless” of the Congressional funding situation.

3. For us to move forward in assisting a community with fundraising, we need 2 short documents ASAP: 1) a letter of interest on your institutional overhead, and 2) a 1-page write-up that provides an overview of your community, your strategic objectives in STEM Education and how SSEP can help meet your objectives, and the scope of your proposed SSEP program (number of students given the opportunity to participate, grade levels, participating schools). More details of what these documents need to include is part of a “Next Steps” email.  If you need us to send it, Contact Us.

4. We critically need to hear ASAP from all communities that are still interested but have not as yet submitted the two documents we need. WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU BY FEBRUARY 25 to get a status report. If you have not been successful at broadening your student involvement, let us know anyway, so we can help you noodle some solutions.

5. We have completed a very straightforward and easy recipe for getting teachers up to speed on the program, and getting students moving. Please see the new To Teachers – How to Move Forward page.

6. We have completed the new Teacher and Student Resources page.

7. We have completed a 2-page MS Word Program Overview. Here is the download link:

8. The Mission Patches that were selected through design competitions in each community participating on STS-134, engaging thousands of students, were officially handed over for integration into the payload. Communities participating in SSEP for STS-135 will have the same opportunity. See the new Mission Patch page.

9. NASA is doing a wonderful feature article on SSEP for STS-134 at that will showcase the experience in the participating communities,  with a story and photos of their students.

10. BIG MILESTONE: All 16 experiments selected to fly on STS-134 (the final flight of Endeavour) have officially passed NASA Flight Safety Review. There is now real data addressing the ability for SSEP student designed experiments to pass a NASA Flight Safety Review. They are all GO for launch!
See the Blog Post announcement.

11. We have 200 students, parents, and family members representing the 16 participating communities, coming to the STS-134 launch at Kennedy on April 19, and have arranged a half-day conference for everyone to meet, and with presentations on the experiences from community leadership. What’s wonderful is that NASA is providing access to the viewing location normally reserved for Kennedy Space Center staff families and friends.

12. We are expecting word by March 15 if the SSEP National Conference for STS-134 will be held at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum July 6-8 just after July 4th weekend in Washington, DC– the most visited Museum on the planet, with student team presentations on experiment design, VIP tours, and featured speakers.  We would pursue the same for SSEP on STS-135.

After reading all this, don’t you want to come aboard on the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program? Let’s try to make it happen!
There are a significant number of resources provided for the $20K program cost, and are distributed in 5 categories:

1. Reservation (lease) of the experiment slot in the mini-lab and all launch services provided by NanoRacks: flight safety review and the associated extensive testing of your flight experiment’s fluids and solids, payload loading, payload integration into the shuttle, payload removal, and harvesting of the experiment.

2. All Teacher and Student Resources

3. The Step 2 Review Panel activities: for selection of your flight experiment from the finalist proposals. Activities include constituting the review panel, conducting the review panel, compiling all reviewers comments, sending comments to the proposing teams, and providing all flight experiment information for the NASA Flight Safety Review to Nanoracks. Read about the Proposal Review process

4. All Community Program elements

5. Ongoing program assistance for all aspects of the program: this includes fundraising, community on-boarding, and ongoing assistance for teachers on all aspects of the program.

Here is a Table of what is provided to an SSEP Participating Community.


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.

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The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.