SSEP Mission 18 to the International Space Station Has Begun: Welcome Aboard to 15,000 Participating Students Across 38 Communities in the U.S., Canada and Ukraine

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The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and its international arm, the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, are honored to announce the start of program operations for Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 18 to the International Space Station (ISS) – the 20th SSEP flight opportunity since program inception in 2010. Mission 18 to ISS officially began on September 1, 2023, and we are proud to welcome aboard the 38 communities listed below.

Each participating community submitted a formal Implementation Plan for review and approval, which demonstrated how SSEP would address their community’s strategic needs in STEM education, and detailed a real world plan for how a Local Team of educators would engage up to hundreds of students in real microgravity experiment design and proposal writing. Based on the Implementation Plans, the 38 Mission 18 communities will engage 15,050 grade 5-16 students in experiment design, and over 2,450 flight experiment proposals are expected from student teams. A 2-step formal proposal review process, culminating with the SSEP National Step 2 Review Board meeting in November 2023 in Washington D.C., will select one flight experiment for 37 of the 38 communities. One community, Hillsborough County, Florida, is flying 2 experiments, for a total of 39 Mission 18 flight experiments.

Of special note (institution names are provided in the Mission 18 community list at the bottom of this post)–

  • 16 of the 38 Mission 18 communities are returning communities: Mission 18 is the eleventh mission for Hillsborough County, Florida; the tenth mission for Burleson, Texas; the seventh mission for Moreno Valley, California and iForward-Grantsburg, Wisconsin; and the fourth mission for Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Mission 18 is also the third mission for 5 communities and the second mission for 6 communities.
  • 10 of the Mission 18 communities are 2- and 4-year colleges and universities focusing on undergraduate engagement, in: Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Athens, Ohio; Kent, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbia, South Carolina; and Houston, Texas.
  • 3 Mission 18 communities are in Canada: Edmonton, Alberta; Guelph, Ontario; and Kingston, Ontario
  • 1 Mission 18 community is a nationally distributed SSEP competition across Ukraine.

The 39 flight experiments for Mission 18 to ISS will be selected by December 15, 2023, with a projected launch as the SSEP Surveyor payload of experiments in late Spring / early Summer 2024.

Community participation in Mission 18 to ISS has been made possible through NCESSE strategic partnerships with Nanoracks LLC, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), as well as our National Partner, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Funding for many of the participating communities was also provided by Local Partners – businesses, foundations, and individuals – which provided funding directly to participating schools in their area. The SSEP Mission 18 Community Profiles and Local Partners page is a place on the SSEP website where we provide a profile of each participating community, and we acknowledge the remarkable support provided by all National and Local Partners. We invite you to explore that page to read about your community, and assess if there are any partners that need to be added. To add partners, please contact SSEP Flight Operations Manager John Hamel, email:


Program Overview and Heritage to Date

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is designed as a national model for STEM education, and immerses up to hundreds of students across a participating community in an authentic real world, trans-disciplinary research experience as part of America’s Space Program. This is not a simulation – we are truly inviting each community into America’s Space Program. We are inviting all participating students to take on the role of real microgravity researchers – formally designing microgravity experiments against real world engineering and technology constraints, writing real proposals against a formal proposal guide, and going through a real proposal review competition. SSEP was created in the very best spirit of allowing our students to see firsthand what is expected of professional scientists and engineers on the frontiers of human exploration.  SSEP gives students the ability to make an informed decision about a possible career in a STEM field through immersion in a real world research experience.

Each participating SSEP community is provided a flight certified, microgravity research mini-laboratory and launch services to transport the mini-lab containing one student team designed microgravity experiment to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit, where the astronauts will operate the experiment. Each community has a Local Team of educators that first delivers an established microgravity curriculum to often hundreds of students, and the students then form research teams of 3-5 students per team. Each of the resulting teams vie for the single experiment slot provided to their community through design of a research investigation – a microgravity experiment in a science discipline of their choice,  and writing a proposal, mirroring how professional researchers secure limited research assets through a formal call for proposals. Review of all proposals culminates with the SSEP National Step 2 Review Board selecting the flight experiment for each participating community.

Heritage: Since program inception in 2010 (through Mission 17), 147,660 grade 5-16 students in 221 communities across the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Ukraine have been immersed in real research, designing microgravity experiments to fly to ISS. Over 29,500 formal research proposals have been submitted by student teams. To date, 343 experiments have flown to ISS and returned to Earth for harvesting and analysis by their student flight teams. Over 224,600 more students across the entire grade preK-16 pipeline were engaged in their communities’ broader STEAM experience, submitting 195,000 Mission Patch designs. Each year, communities send delegations to the SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC, where student flight teams report on experiment design and science results.

To get into the spirit of SSEP Mission 18 to ISS, the video below is the NASA live coverage of the launch of SpaceX CRS-26 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:20 pm EST, November 26, 2022. The CRS-26 Dragon spacecraft carried the 24 SSEP Mission 16 experiments to ISS. The experiments were conducted by astronauts for 6 weeks on orbit, with Dragon returning to Earth and splashing down in the Atlantic off the Florida coast, on January 11, 2023. Listed below are the 3 astronauts that participated in SSEP Mission 16 and operated the experiments on ISS.

The 39 Mission 17 experiments are scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-29 in early November 2023 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Stay tuned.

You can watch videos of all SSEP launches since program inception, with the first two SSEP payloads on the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour (STS-134) and Atlantis (STS-135), and watch videos of astronauts operating the experiments, at the Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page.


SSEP Mission 16 to ISS
Vehicle: SpaceX CRS-26
Launch: November 26, 2022 at 2:20 pm ET
Site: Space Launch Complex 39A, NASA Kennedy Space Center, FL
Payload Designation: SSEP18 – Ranger, 24 experiments
SSEP Mission 16 Information: Flight Profile, Media Coverage, Press Kit
Mission 16 Participation: Participating Communities, Flight Mission Patches

Astronauts on ISS that operated the Mission 16 experiments:

Frank performed the A=0 and U-5 interactions on-orbit.


Frank Rubio (USA), NASA Astronaut [biography]
InstaGram: astro_frankrubio






Josh performed the A+2 and U-14 interactions on-orbit.

Josh Cassada (USA), NASA Astronaut [biography]
InstaGram: astro_cassada
Twitter: astro_josh







Koichi performed the U-2 interactions on-orbit.


Koichi Wakata (Japan), ISS Crew Member [biography]
Twitter: Astro_Wakata







Mission 18 Communities – Welcome Aboard!
(read a profile for each community, with expected student engagement, institutional partners, and community leadership, at the  SSEP Mission 18 Community Profiles and Local Partners page)

1. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Edmonton Public School Board

2. Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Upper Grand District School Board

3. Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Queen’s University

4. Ukraine – Nationally Distributed Program
Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

5. Mesa, AZ
Mesa Public Schools

6. Tolleson, AZ
Union Elementary School District 62

7. Glendora, CA
Glendora Unified School District

8. Lamont, CA
Mt. View Middle School
Lamont Elementary School District

9. Moreno Valley, CA
Moreno Valley Unified School District

10. Colorado Springs, CO
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

11. Loveland, CO
High Plains School

12. Hillsborough County, FL
Hillsborough County Public Schools

13. Viera, FL
Pinecrest Academy Space Coast

14. Chicago, IL
Harry S. Truman College

15. Pittsfield, MA
Berkshire Community College

16. Oak Park, MI
Oak Park Schools
Einstein Elementary School

17. Edina, MN
Edina Public Schools

18. Albany, NY
City School District of Albany

19. Garden City, NY
Garden City School District

20. Long Beach, NY
Long Beach Public Schools

21. Red Hook, NY
Red Hook High School
Red Hook Central School District

22. Tonawanda, NY
North Tonawanda City School District

23. Grand Forks, ND
University of North Dakota

24. Athens, OH
Ohio University

25. Kent, OH
Kent State University

26. Pickerington, OH
Pickerington Local Schools

27. Pittsburgh, PA
Community College of Allegheny County

28. Columbia, SC
Midlands Technical College (MTC)

29. Arlington, TX
Martin High School
Arlington Independent School District

30. Burleson, TX
Burleson Independent School District

31. Houston, TX
San Jacinto College, South Campus

32. Plano, TX
Plano ISD Academy High School
Plano Independent School District

33. San Antonio, TX
Northeast Independent School District

34. Texarkana, TX
Texarkana Independent School District

35. Waxahachie, TX
Waxahachie Independent School District

36. Sandy, UT
Canyons School District

37. Chesapeake, VA
Chesapeake Public Schools

38. iForward-Grantsburg, WI
Grantsburg School District

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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.