SSEP Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS)

Last update to this page: May 5, 2013, 8:00 am ET

NOTE: The Aquarius payload of 15 Mission 1 flight experiments were thought to be activated at 10:30 am EDT, May 28, 2012. On return of the experiments to the student research teams, it became apparent that the experiments had not been activated on orbit. NanoRacks and NASA launched an inquiry and determined that astronaut training on the operation of the mini-laboratories did not ensure that the correct minimum bend angle for activation of the mini-labs was achieved (see Mini-Lab Operations page).

NanoRacks and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education therefore decided to re-fly the Mission 1 experiments as Aquarius II, together with the Mission 2 Antares payload of experiments, on the Fall 2012 Mission 2 flight to ISS – the first operational flight of the Dragon vehicle, designated SpaceX-1. On October 7, 2012, 12 of 15 Mission 1 experiments launched to ISS aboard SpaceX-1 as the Aquarius II re-flight payload and returned to Earth on November 19, 2012. All on-orbit activities for the Aquarius II payload of experiments is covered on the SSEP Mission 2 to ISS: Experiment Log page.

For details on the activation failure see:
Re-flight of Entire SSEP Mission 1 Payload of Experiments – as Aquarius II – on Upcoming SpaceX Dragon Launch, August 8, 2012

For details of the Mission 2 to ISS flight profile, which reflects the re-flight of the Mission 1 payload as Aquarius II, see the SSEP Mission 2 to ISS flight profile page.

Payload Ferry Flights and ISS Crew Data

Ferry Vehicle to ISS: SpaceX Dragon demonstration flight (COTS 2+) – the first commercial vehicle to berth with ISS (note: originally Soyuz 30, see Blog Post
Crew: None
Launch Date: May 22, 2012 
Launch Site:
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Berthing at ISS: May 25, 2012

Ferry Vehicle for Return to Earth: Soyuz (TMA-03M) 29S
Crew: Kononenko, Pettit, Kuipers
Undocking/Landing Date: July 1, 2012 (see Flight Schedule at
Landing Site: Kazakhstan
Payload Duration on ISS: 1.25 months

Notable: visit the NASA ISS website for a comprehensive overview of ISS construction, on-orbit research, operations, crews, and multimedia galleries; read about the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon spacecraft at; read about the Soyuz TMA vehicle at

ISS Crew for SSEP Mission 1 Payload Operations: Expedition 31
Station Commander Oleg Kononenko (Russia); Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA-Netherlands), Don Pettit (USA), Joe Acaba (USA), Gennady Padalka (Russia), and Sergei Revin (Russia)

SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Payload and Program Data

Payload Designation: SSEP3 – Aquarius (named for Apollo 13 Lunar Lander)
Number of Student Team Flight Experiments: 15
Payload: Suite of Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME) Mini-laboratories
Stowage: NanoRacks Express Rack on ISS

The third SSEP flight opportunity—SSEP Mission 1 to the International Space Station—was announced by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) on July 31, 2011, with an accompanying Video Clip by Center Director, Dr. Jeff Goldstein.

As a result, 12 communities across the U.S. joined Mission 1 to ISS, providing 41,200 grade 5-14 students, across 92 schools, the opportunity to design and propose real experiments to fly aboard ISS. Student teams submitted 779 proposals from which 15 were selected to fly to ISS—one for each community and 3 backup experiments. Visit the SSEP Community Network Hubsite for descriptions of the selected experiments, profiles of the participating communities, the SSEP In the News page, and thoughts on program impact from students, teachers, and administrators on the In Our Own Words page.

Current Status:
Operations for SSEP Mission 1 to ISS have now been completed, except for one experiment from San Marino, Californiathat suffered a breach in the outer tube of the mini-lab during its re-flight as part of the Aquarius II payload. This experiment is being re-flown with the Mission 3 to ISS Falcon I payload aboard Orbital Sciences D-1 Cygnus in Fall 2013.

All on-orbit activities associated with the Aquarius II re-flight payload of Mission 1 to ISS experiments (which flew with the Mission 2 Antares payload of experiments) are detailed on the SSEP Mission 2 to ISS: Experiment Log page.

Student Teams reported on initial experiment design at the 2nd Annual SSEP National Conference, held July 6-7, 2012, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Student teams will be able to report flight results at the 3rd Annual Conference, held July 2-3, 2013, at the Museum (see the 2012 SSEP National Conference page and the 2013 SSEP National Conference page). Visit the SSEP on STS-135 Scientific Return and Reporting page for videos of conference oral presentations.

A List of Important SSEP Mission 1 to ISS Subpages:
SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Critical Timeline
SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Mini-Laboratory Operation
SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Mission Patch Art and Design Competition
SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Flight Phase Operations
SSEP Mission 1 to ISS: Experiment Log
Launch Viewing Plans for SpaceX Dragon

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.