SSEP Mission 4 to ISS: Critical Timeline


All information added or updated since this page first went up on October 31, 2012, is in GREEN TEXT below.
Information still to be determined (if any) is in RED TEXT below.
Dates and times that are subject to change at NASA’s discretion are in PURPLE TEXT below.

Last update of this page: May 6, 2013, 6:30 am ET

Below is a timeline of milestones for SSEP Mission 4 to the International Space Station (ISS). It covers activities associated with how communities join the program, the experiment design competition, selection of flight experiments, launch, operations aboard ISS, and mini-laboratory return to Earth.

A Note about the ferry flights to and from the ISS. The current plan for transporting the SSEP Mission 4 experiments payload to ISS is to have it launched on a U.S. ferry vehicle from the east coast of the U.S. in Fall 2013, and return it to Earth using either a Russian Soyuz spacecraft or a U.S. vehicle about six weeks later. Student team experiments will therefore be in orbit for approximately six weeks according to the current schedule. This page will be updated with definitive launch and landing times once they become available.

Phase 1: The Timeline through student experiments selection—

November 6, 2012: SSEP National Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for SSEP Mission 4 to the International Space Station
Announcement across U.S. via the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE): opportunity open to School Districts (pre-college grades 5-12); 2-Year Community Colleges; and 4-Year Colleges and Universities with emphasis on Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Announcement to Canada, Japan, and member states of the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) via NCESSE’s new international arm, the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education.

November 6, 2012 – February 18, 2013 (16 weeks): Communities Come Aboard
Education stakeholders at the community level assess the opportunity, and if interested, rapidly assess funding prospects with local foundations, businesses, and philanthropic organizations, and secure pledges of funding (Letters of Commitment of Funding).

WE CAN HELP IDENTIFY FUNDING: Regarding identifying and securing funding, NCESSE can greatly assist. NCESSE found funding for 51 of the 67 SSEP community programs associated with the five flight opportunities to date—SSEP on the final two Space Shuttle flights, and SSEP Missions 1, 2, and 3 to ISS. We are committed to doing the same for SSEP Mission 4 to ISS.

February 18, 2013: Final Date for Receipt of Formal Letters of Commitment of Funding
Deadline for your community to submit to NCESSE via email a formal Letter of Commitment of Funding (on letterhead of the funding organization), which states that funding is available and will be allocated to SSEP. If NCESSE is leading the fundraising, we will secure these letters.

February 19, 2013: Final Date for Go-No-Go Decision
Based on the received Letters of Commitment, NCESSE announces if the minimum of 10 funded mini-laboratories required to fly the SSEP Mission 4 Payload to ISS has been achieved, hence a minimum of 10 participating communities. Note that the minimum requirement could be met earlier than February 19. All funded communities will be notified as soon as the minimum requirement is met so that they can gear up for program operations as early as possible in advance of program start.

February 25, 2013: SSEP begins in all participating communities

TO GET STARTED WITH SSEP IN YOUR COMMUNITY: read the To Teachers—How to Move Forward page.

March 30, 2013: Deadline for Signed Contract and First of Two Installments
Final date for your community and SSEP to have a signed contract in place; by this date, SSEP must have received the signed contract, and a check to Tides Center (NCESSE’s parent non-profit) for 50% of the total cost.

March 11, 2013: NCESSE ships 5 Fluids Mixing Enclosure Mini-lab (MixStik) Kits to Each Participating Community

March 22, 2013: Deadline for Community’s Two Patch Plan to be Received by NCESSE (see Mission Patch page)

February 25 – April 29, 2013: 9 weeks of Experiment Design and Proposal Writing in Participating Communities
Community-wide engagement in SSEP; student teams frame experiments; student teams write and submit 5-page proposals to your community’s lead organization on SSEP. Note: all proposing teams should be required to send a Notice of Intent to propose (NoI) to your community’s lead organization on SSEP by April 1, so the size of your needed Step 1 Review Board can be determined and assembled in advance.

April 29, 2013: Deadline for Student Team Proposal Submission to Your Community’s Lead Organization for Step 1 Review

April 29-May 2, 2013: proposals are processed by your community’s lead organization on SSEP and distributed to your Step 1 Review Board.

May 3-13, 2013: your community’s Step 1 Review Board completes review of proposals, and selects up to 3 finalist proposals for forwarding to NCESSE for each experiment slot you have reserved. The Step 1 Review Board must only forward proposals that meet proposal requirements, as per the Proposal Requirements Checklist (found in the Flight Experiment Proposal Guide which is downloadable from the Document Library.) If the proposals are written in a language other than English, the finalist proposals must be translated into English before they are sent to SSEP for Step 2 review.

May 13, 2013: Deadline for Finalist Proposals to be Received by NCESSE Via Email by 10:00 PM Eastern Time (USA) for Step 2 Review  

CRITICAL NOTE: Proposals must be sent to Stacy Hamel, NCESSE’s Flight Operations Manager for SSEP, at:

CRITICAL NOTE: Once received, Stacy will determine if each proposal is complete. Incomplete proposals will not be accepted. If a proposal is incomplete, the submitting community will be notified as soon as possible, and have until the 10:00 PM ET deadline on May 13 to rectify the situation. This means that communities will want to get proposals to Stacy a few days before the deadline to ensure there is time to address any missing information. 

May 14-15, 2013: finalist proposals from across the world are processed by SSEP Team and distributed to Step 2 Review Board.

May 21-22, 2013: Step 2 Review Board Meets

May 23, 2013: Flight Experiments Tentatively Selected
NCESSE reviews Board’s comments, assesses if there are any outstanding questions regarding fluids/solids to be flown, special handling instructions, and required astronaut interactions aboard ISS, and contacts student teams for any clarification or missing information. This milestone is not associated with a public announcement.

May 23-30, 2013: Student Teams Lock Down Their Experiments 
Student Experiment teams finalize their: 1) List of Experiment Samples (fluids/solids to be flown), 2) special handling instructions, and 3) baseline experiment timeline for astronaut interactions, based on the feedback from the Step 2 review committee.

May 30, 2013: Flight Experiments Formally Selected
A list of proposals selected for flight are posted on this website. This milestone is associated with a public announcement.

May 30, 2013: Deadline for Second and Final Installment
Deadline for NCESSE to receive second and final installment from your community, with a check to Tides Center (NCESSE’s parent non-profit) for 50% of total cost, allowing program to proceed to the flight phase.

May 30, 2013: Flight Experiment Details Submitted to NanoRacks
NCESSE provides experiment details to NanoRacks for delivery to NASA. These details must include the List of Experiment Samples (fluids and solids to be flown), with prescribed concentrations, to be given to NASA Toxicology for flight safety review; and the timeline for astronaut interaction with the experiment aboard the ISS, to be provided to NASA’s ISS crew activities scheduling team.

June 5, 2013: NASA Toxicology Receives List of Experiment Samples
By this time NanoRacks provides the List of Experiment Samples to NASA Toxicology. NASA Toxicology requires receipt of the list 90 days in advance of launch. Launch must therefore take place no earlier than September 3, 2013.

Phase 2: The timeline for selected experiments—

Student teams with experiments selected for flight can continue to refine their experiments until they ship their loaded mini-laboratory to NanoRacks.
Note, however, that any modification to the approved list of experiment samples (fluids and solids) for an experiment is limited to specifically REDUCING concentrations, and addition of new samples is NOT allowed. Also note that a sample can be removed entirely from the experiment’s list of samples, which corresponds to reducing the concentration to 0. 

During Phase 2, modifications to special handling instructions, and astronaut interaction times with the experiment aboard ISS, are possible in consultation with NCESSE and NanoRacks prior to mini-lab submission to Houston. 

May 31, 2013:
 Deadline for NCESSE to Receive Mission Patch(es) to Fly to ISS (see Mission Patch page)

The following milestones are provided relative to the time of handover of the flight experiment mini-labs to NanoRacks in Houston. These milestones are subject to the very fluid nature of launch operations, and should be viewed as a nominal operations profile that is subject to significant change.  

T=0, Handover: Deadline for NanoRacks to Receive All Mini-labs from Flight Experiment Teams; Deadline for Any Updates to Fluid/Solid Concentrations, Crew Interactions and Activities, and Special Handling Requirements
Once received, NanoRacks will log receipt of shipment, heat seal level 2 and 3 containment bags around each mini-laboratory, and load the mini-lab into the SSEP Mission 4 Payload.
Current Target: Mid-October 2013 (Aim is for Launch Minus 4 Weeks)

T + 8 Days: SSEP Mission 4 Payload Turned over by NanoRacks to NASA for Vehicle Integration
Current Target: Late October, 2013 (Aim is for Launch Minus 3 Weeks)

Launch Minus 10 Days or Less: SSEP Mission 4 Payload Is Loaded into Ferry Vehicle

T + 4 Weeks: Launch of SSEP Mission 4 Payload to ISS
Current Target: November 11, 2013
(Vehicle: Orb-1)

T + 4.4 Weeks: Payload Transferred from Ferry Vehicle to ISS (Launch Plus Approximately 3 Days)

T + xx Weeks: SSEP Mission 4 Payload Returns to Earth (Aim is for Launch Plus Approximately Six Weeks; Actual: To Be Determined)
Current Target: xx 2013 
(Vehicle: To be Determined)

Return to Earth + (24-48) Hours: SSEP Mission 4 Payload Received by NanoRacks in Houston; Mini-labs Shipped Directly To Experiment Teams
Mini-lab ships as soon as FedEx is open. Shipping will be done as per special handling requirements defined by flight experiment team, e.g., pack mini-lab with cold packs or dry ice. International experimenters will need to have their mini-lab shipped to a U.S. address such as an embassy or a consulate, or have a representative pick up their mini-lab in Houston.

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.