Launch Plans for STS-134

APRIL 26: an update of this page was made on April 26, at 6:00 am EDT. All NEWLY updated information is in GREEN TEXT below.

The launch slip of STS-134 from April 19 to April 29 prompted a significant re-examination of travel planning for the 300 SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members that were heading to Kennedy Space Center for the launch. The key issue was that rescheduling of travel for two of the communities (Omaha, NE, and Seattle, WA) was not an option. The NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium graciously offered to pull together and oversee a STS-134 Pre-Launch Program (April 18-21) for the Omaha and Seattle communities, and NCESSE is taking the lead on the STS-134 Launch Plan (April 28 – May 1) with support from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium. Both plans are detailed below.

For the STS-134 Launch Plan (April 28 – May 1), we have 270 traveling to KARS Park on April 29, and 192 attending the SSEP Community Network Meeting on April 30.

A. Basic Travel Information

1. Airport

Where should folks fly in? NASA recommends to their guests that they fly into Orlando given it is serviced by multiple carriers. You can certainly try flying in to Melbourne, which is closer, but flights are far more limited.

2. KSC Visitor Complex and Tours

General admission to the Visitor Complex provides access to a number of attractions, including: the Shuttle Launch Experience (a launch simulation), IMAX films, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (including interactive spaceflight simulators), the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and the Kennedy Space Center Tour.

General admission is $43 adult/$33 child (ages 3-11) plus tax

You can add a more behind the scenes tour called Discover KSC: Today and Tomorrow while Endeavour is on the launch pad.

The added cost of a behind-the-scences tour is $21 adult/$15 child (ages 3-11) plus tax

Important notes:
a. You must pay for Vistor Complex general admission to supplement your visit with a behind-the-scenes tour.

b. General admission tickets are valid for two days if used within a seven day period. They are not valid on space shuttle launch days.

c. Regarding tours, the Visitor Complex can set up a group reservation tour, but that requires a total attendee count in advance, and requires the booking organization, e.g., NCESSE, to pay for the entire tour in advance. NCESSE unfortunately does not have the ability to implement a group reservation tour given there is no straightforward way for us to pay for the tour and then collect funds from a large number of attendees—a number that we would be hard-pressed to know in advance.

d. Behind-the-scenes tours can book up well in advance of your trip, particularly when close to a shuttle launch day, so reserve a tour in advance of your trip!

e. To book reservations for general admission and a behind-the-scenes tour call 877-436-9620 and selecting Option 5.

3. Hotels

We have identified a number of hotels in the area. When booking a hotel, make sure to find out what happens to your commitment of payment if the launch date slips before you arrive in Florida.

Jump to the Hotels page.


B. The STS-134 Pre-Launch Program (April 18-21)


Monday, April 18

SSEP community attendees fly in

Tuesday April 19

Activities at KSC
behind-the-scenes tour with NASA Education Office, teams drove out to launch pad; got great photos in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building and near the Countdown Clock

Wednesday April 20

SSEP Community Meeting: scheduled for an 8:00 am start
Doubletree Guest Suites, Melbourne Beach, FL

Presentations by:
Leslie Fletcher, Deputy Division Chief of Education, NASA KSC

Josh Haber, Auburn University, Student Co-Op at KSC
Student Team Presentations
Free-wheeling student discussion about science and their experiment designs

C. The STS-134 Launch Plan (April 28 – May 1)

1. Points of Reference

a. NASA has graciously offered to provide access for up to 300 SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members to the KARS Park launch viewing area on Kennedy Space Center grounds (see Section 4 below). We are now close to 300, and are locking in our attendance totals through signed Launch Viewing Agreements with all SSEP participating communities.

b. Michaela Lucas, Associate Director for the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Program, was planning a meeting in Florida close to launch to provide a shared experience for Nebraska’s two SSEP communities. She approached NCESSE to see if the concept should be broadened to a meeting for the entire SSEP program. We were planning for a SSEP common launch viewing site, but her wonderful suggestion—which we are calling the SSEP Community Network Meeting—ensures a shared experience if the launch is delayed after everyone travels to Florida, and SSEP students, teachers, and family members cannot stay on in Florida to see it. A heartfelt thank you to Michaela for the idea, and for the baseline schedule that is adopted below. Teamwork … it’s what holds a family together.

2. Key Thinking for Planning

Fly in as late as possible before launch so that if launch is delayed by just one or two days, there is still an opportunity to see the launch if folks can schedule to be in Florida for 3-4 days, but recognizing that flying in the day of the launch from around the nation could cause the launch to be missed if there are flight delays and/or heavy traffic.

3. Schedule

Thursday, April 28

SSEP community attendees fly in

Note: if you live in parts of the nation where air travel to Florida takes significant time, you should not take a chance on flying in on day of the scheduled launch (Friday) for fear of missing the launch due to flight delays, waiting at the car rental location at the airport, travel time from the airport in likely significant traffic, and hotels possibly miles from Kennedy Space Center. Also consider the time needed to park and situate at the crowded public viewing area.

No-Host Dinner Site: we have identified three locations for a no host dinner site, where anyone interested in having dinner with other SSEP attendees can meet. It’s a good way for folks to get-together informally (idea thanks to Jennifer Kelly, the SSEP Community Program Director in Portland, OR :-))

All three locations are in Port Canaveral, and all are in close walking distance from one another. We spoke to the owners for all three restaurants who said that they can’t reserve an entire area in their establishment for SSEP since we don’t know how many will show up. But they suggest you call a restaurant 2 to 3 hours in advance of your arrival in Port Canaveral, tell them you are with the “Student Spaceflight Experiments Program” and ask if they can reserve a table for you. Since there is potential they might not have a table, we’ve provided the names and contact information for THREE restaurants below. Once you get to the restaurant, tell the host or hostess you are with SSEP and ask if they can point out other folks that are already seated and in our group. Your table may or may not be located next to theirs, but you can certainly walk over and say hi, ask what part of the nation they are from, and socialize—maybe even get-together for ice cream after your meal and walk around:)  Here are the three restaurants:

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill
610 Glen Cheek Drive
Port Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Mike (the owner)

Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
628 Glen Cheek Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Jared (the manager); and (Rhett, the owner)

Milliken’s Reef
683 Dave Nisbet Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Jason (the owner); he said to ask for Bill or Rachelle that night

Friday, April 29

STS-134 Launch scheduled for 3:47 p.m. EDT (10 minute launch window)

All SSEP Attendees have a common viewing area at KARS Park, ARRIVAL AT KSC AT 11:00 am, but all attendees MUST be part of the car caravan from a designated rendezvous point to KARS Park, see Section 4 below

Note: Some folks will opt to fly in on Tuesday, from nearby (e.g., East Coast) departure points, BUT WE ADVISE AGAINST IT!

Saturday, April 30

SSEP Community Network Meeting 8:00 am to 12:30 pm: students, teachers, and family members invited to attend from all participating SSEP Communities

Opportunity in the afternoon to go to the Visitor Complex and also take a behind-the-scenes tour

Possibly a second launch attempt in the afternoon if delayed from prior day

Possible day to fly home after the Meeting if launch was on schedule on Friday

Sunday, May 1

Opportunity in the afternoon to go to the Visitor Complex and also take a behind-the-scenes tour

Possibly a third launch attempt in the afternoon if delayed from prior day

Possible day to fly home

4. Viewing the Launch – KARS Park

All SSEP attendees are invited by NASA to view the launch from KARS Park on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) property. This site is normally just for KSC staff family and friends.

It is a beautiful site to view the launch, and there will be vendors with food, and educational activities. Unlike other viewing sites, visitors will not be asked to leave right after launch, so you can wait for traffic to die down.

Lots of room? Yup. The site has picnic areas (so bring food if you are so inclined), pavilions, and it’s a great place to bring your football and/or soccer ball. How about an SSEP game of tag football?

Due to the size of our group, and a concern over heavy traffic, we will plan on getting to KARS Park at 11:00 am, almost 5 hours before launch. That will give us time to situate and have some fun. Given we’re getting there early, NASA is reserving a pavilion for our group.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if the launch is scrubbed for April 29, and is rescheduled for April 30 or May 1, we are still being granted access to KARS Park for either of these rescheduled launch days. In such a case, we will use the same procedure as before, which is to car caravan to KARS Park from the designated rendezvous point.

Getting to KARS Park: we will all be traveling using your rental cars. We will define a rendezvous point away from KSC, car caravan to KARS Park, and go on-site together. Be prepared to walk a bit from your cars, so you might not want to carry too much.

The rendezvous point for the start of the car caravan has been determined, and its location will be sent separately to your SSEP Community Program Director for dissemination to attendees. The car caravan will likely start moving from the rendezvous point no later than 10:30 am, which means that all cars must be at the rendezvous point by 9:45 am so there is enough time to organize the caravan. TO GAIN ACCESS TO KARS PARK, ALL SSEP ATTENDEES MUST BE IN THE CAR CARAVAN.  ATTENDEES SHOWING UP AT KARS PARK ON THEIR OWN WILL BE TURNED AWAY.

Publix Gift: Publix Super Markets Inc. has donated $500 to SSEP!  We will be using this wonderful gift for lunch platters that we’ll take to the pavilion at KARS Park. If you’d like to thank them, send an email to Suprena Dove at Publix.

Should/could folks bring lawn chairs/mats etc to sit on?
Yes, there are picnic tables but for the best viewing areas you will want to bring chairs, mats, etc.

Do attendees need to stay in the Pavilion (or Club house?) or can they roam around the Park?
No. They will definitely want to wander, but wear comfortable shoes! In AREA I of the park, we have Sonny’s BBQ, a DJ, NASA Education Station, Astronaut autographs/photo op, memorabilia sales, etc. Also, we have Orlando Science Center on hand and they will be doing three performances throughout the day of their science show called “Kaboom.”

From KARS Park, can you see the Shuttle on the pad, or only when it blasts off? Is KARS Park the view we’re used to seeing on TV, where you see the Shuttle at the pad before blastoff and the big Countdown Clock is in the foreground?
We are about 12-15 miles from the pad, and at night when the lights are on, it can be seen, but in the daytime, you really need a pair of binoculars to see it on the pad. The view you see on television is much different than the park – that is the Press Site area. When it takes off you can definitely see it and hear it from the park!

How far a walk will it be from the parking lot to the pavilion? We’re trying to figure out what we can carry.
Awaiting answer

5. Community Network Meeting on April 30

Please know that all students, teachers, administrators—AND PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS—are MOST welcome to attend this shared SSEP experience! Come meet the family from across the U.S.A.


• Not too long as to tax the attendees: 8:00 am to 12:30 pm

• Opportunity to:

• informally socialize: during meeting start, and during breaks
• formally introduce all the teams
• hear from SSEP lead organizations, NASA, Space Grant Consortia
• hear 3 community presentations on their experiences
• hear a featured guest, likely an astronaut


8:00-8:30 socializing over continental breakfast

8:30-8:40 Introduce your SSEP Delegations from Across the Nation

8:40-8:50 Memories of Moments Around the Room: a challenge to students, teachers, and parents: name something in 10 seconds that was truly memorable about the program

8:50-9:10 Keynote: Science, it’s Not a Book of Knowledge … it’s a Journey
J. Goldstein, Center Director, NCESSE

9:10-9:20 Community Experience Presentation 1
Tina Henckel, SSEP Community Program Director, Shelton, CT

9:20-9:40 Break

9:40-9:50 Community Experience Presentation 2
Lenny Sue French, Teacher Facilitator, Guilford County, NC

9:50-10:10 Student Roundtable: so … what were those way cool stories for how you came up with an idea for an experiment, and refined your thinking?

10:10-10:30 So You Want to Know How Your Experiments Are Integrated in to the Shuttle? Jeffrey Manber, Managing Director, NanoRacks / Mike Johnson, CTO, NanoRacks

10:30-10:50 NASA Opportunities for Students
Leslie Fletcher, Deputy Division Chief of Education, NASA KSC

10:50-11:10 Break

11:10-11:20 Community Experience Presentation 3
Sharon Churchwell, SSEP Community Program Director, Lincolnwood, IL

11:20-11:30 For Teachers and Parents: has the SSEP experience made a difference? How?

11:30-11:40 Space Grant Opportunities for Students
Michaela Flynn-Lucas, Associate Director, NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium

11:40-11:50 Community Experience Presentation 4
Diane Irwin, SSEP Community Program Director, Ballston Spa, New York

11:50-12:00 Students’ Last Word: has the SSEP experience made a difference? How?

12:00-12:05 The Future of SSEP: Conference in DC and SSEP on ISS

12:05 Group Hug

Dress for Meeting

Nice jeans and sneakers are fine

Meeting Location

The Community Network Meeting will be held in the Olin Engineering Building, Room 118, a 145 seat auditorium classroom at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). FIT is located at 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne, Florida 32901-6975. use Google Maps for directions to FIT. On arrival at FIT, use THIS MAP (Download Map PDF) to get to the Olin Engineering Building (Building 34 on the Map). Note that Olin is off of University Boulevard (which runs E-W).

Note: we have 180 folks that want to attend the meeting, which is 35 more than fit in the room. Since half of the attendees are family members of the students, we will rotate the family members into the meeting through the morning.

We recognize that potentially thousands of students in the SSEP participating communities would have loved to come down for the launch, and attend the meeting. We are therefore exploring live web-streaming of the meeting for 300 distinct viewers. The idea is that the meeting is taking place, at least for communities in both Central and Eastern Time Zones, during class time (assuming you district is not on Spring Break), so a teacher in a classroom, as a distinct viewer, can get the stream and project on a screen for an entire class. UPDATE: Unfortunately, FIT has informed us that live web-streaming is not available from this venue.

Underwriting for the meeting is made possible by a wonderful gift from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Program, a SSEP National Partner. (Take some time to go to their website and thank them:)

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.