SSEP Mission 7 to ISS: Critical Timeline

Information added or updated since this page went live on April 12, 2014, 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: February 12, 2015, 3:58 pm ET


Below is a timeline of milestones for SSEP Mission 7 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. The timeline is broken into 2 phases: 1) the Experiments Design Phase which concludes with the selection of the flight experiment for each participating community, and 2) the Flight Operations Phase, which concludes with the flown experiments returned to the communities for student team harvesting and analysis.

A Note about the ferry flights to and from the ISS. The current plan for transporting the SSEP Mission 7 Odyssey experiments payload to ISS is to have it launched on a U.S. ferry vehicle from the east coast of the U.S. in Spring 2015, and return it to Earth using either a U.S. vehicle or Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Based on prior SSEP Missions, student team experiments will be in orbit for anywhere from 6 to 14 weeks, though 6 weeks is the preferred duration. There are only a limited number of ferry flights to and from ISS. The duration in orbit is therefore determined once ferry flights are assigned for the Odyssey payload by NASA.This page therefore includes only general target dates for milestones associated with the Flight Operations Phase in Spring 2015.

Phase 1: Experiments Design Phase  The Timeline through selection of flight experiments—

April 21, 2014: SSEP National Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for SSEP Mission 7 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.

April 21 – September 3, 2014 (19 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 91 of the 112 SSEP community programs associated with the eight flight opportunities to date—SSEP on the final two Space Shuttle flights, and SSEP Missions 1 through 6 to ISS. We are committed to doing the same for SSEP Mission 7 to ISS.

September 3, 2014: 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.

September 4, 2014: 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 7 Payload to ISS has been achieved, hence a minimum of 10 participating communities. Note that the minimum requirement could be met earlier than September 4. 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.

September 8, 2014: SSEP begins in all participating communities

TO GET STARTED WITH SSEP IN YOUR COMMUNITY: read the Teacher and Student Resources page.

September 22, 2014: NCESSE ships 5 Fluids Mixing Enclosure Mini-lab Kits to Each Participating Community

October 10, 2014: Deadline for Community’s One- or Two-Patch Plan to be Received and Approved by NCESSE, by 5:00 PM Eastern Time (USA), (see Mission Patch page)
Note: this deadline was extended from October 3 to October 10, 2014. 

October 30, 2014: 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.
Note: this deadline was extended from October 3 to October 30, 2014. 

September 8 – November 7, 2014: 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 October 10, so you know how many proposals you expect to receive from across your community, and the size of your needed Step 1 Review Board can be determined and assembled in advance. (see the Guidance for Setting Up a Step 1 Review Board page)

November 7, 2014: Deadline for Student Team Proposal Submission to Your Community’s Lead Organization for Step 1 Review

November 10-12, 2014: proposals are processed by your community’s lead organization on SSEP and distributed to your Step 1 Review Board.

November 13-19, 2014: 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.

November 19, 2014: Deadline for Finalist Proposals to be Received by NCESSE Via Email by 10:00 PM Eastern Time (USA)

CRITICAL NOTE: proposals submitted after this deadline will be rejected, and not move on to Step 2 Review

CRITICAL NOTE: proposals must be emailed 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. As a benchmark, 50% of all finalist proposals submitted by communities to date have been deemed incomplete by NCESSE. If a proposal is incomplete, the submitting community will be notified as soon as possible, and have until 10:00 PM ET on November 25, 2014 to rectify the situation. 

November 25, 2014: Deadline for Finalist Proposals to be Accepted by NCESSE, by 10:00 PM Eastern Time (USA), for Step 2 Review

CRITICAL NOTE: proposals that are still deemed incomplete by this deadline will be rejected, and not move on to Step 2 Review  

December 1-2, 2014: finalist proposals are processed by SSEP Team and distributed to Step 2 Review Board.

December 9-10, 2014: Step 2 Review Board Meets

December 12, 2014: 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.

December 12-17, 2014: Student Teams Lock Down Their Experiments 
Based on the feedback from the Step 2 Review Board, student experiment teams finalize their: 1) List of Experiment Samples (fluids/solids to be flown), 2) request for any Special Handling Requirements during transport to and from ISS, and 3) baseline Timeline of Crew Interactions which includes both the proposed Crew Interaction Days and proposed Crew Interactions aboard ISS.

December 17, 2014: Flight Experiments Formally Selected
Each community is now free to publicly announce their formally selected Flight Experiment.

December 17, 2014: 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.

December 17, 2014: 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 and volumes, to be given to NASA Toxicology for flight safety review; and the Timeline of Crew Interactions with the experiment aboard ISS, to be provided to NASA’s ISS crew activities scheduling team.

December 23, 2014: 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 120 days in advance of launch. Launch must therefore take place no earlier than April 22, 2015.

Phase 2: Flight Operations Phase – The timeline through Return to Earth of flight experiments —

Once flight experiments are formally selected, student flight teams can continue to refine and optimize their experiments (often in response to Step 2 Review Board comments) for likely an additional 2 months. 

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 volumes, 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 Requirements during transport to and from ISS, Crew Interaction Days, and Crew Interactions with the experiment aboard ISS, are also possible in consultation with NCESSE and NanoRacks for likely 2 months beyond formal selection of the flight experiment. 

March 6, 2015:
 Deadline for NCESSE to Receive Mission Patch(es) to Fly to ISS, by 5:00 pm ET (USA), (see Mission Patch page)
Extended to: April 15, 2015 by 5:00 pm ET (USA)

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
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 7 Payload.
Current Target: Winter/Spring 2015 (Aim is for Launch Minus 4 Weeks)

T + 8 Days: SSEP Mission 7 Payload Turned over by NanoRacks to NASA for Vehicle Integration
Current Target: Spring 2015 (Aim is for Launch Minus 3 Weeks)

Launch Minus 10 Days or Less: SSEP Mission 7 Payload Is Loaded into Ferry Vehicle

T + 4 Weeks: Launch of SSEP Mission 7 Payload to ISS
Current Target: Spring 2015, (Ferry Vehicle: To Be Determined) 

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

T + 10 Weeks: SSEP Mission 7 Payload Returns to Earth (Aim is for Launch Plus Approximately Six Weeks; Actual: To Be Determined)
Current Target: Spring/Summer 2015 (Ferry Vehicle: To Be Determined)

Return to Earth + (24 to 60) HoursSSEP Mission 7 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.