STS-134 Critical Timeline

REVISIONS April 5, 2011, and April 15, 2011: see text in RED.

The milestone dates in the Critical Timeline below are tied to the current launch date for Shuttle Endeavour (SST-134). If the launch date slips, any affected milestone dates below will either be revised at the time the launch date slips, or will be identified as in process. Such revisions will be MARKED IN RED.

The Timeline’s Phase 1, the “Timeline through student experiments selection”, is driven by the critical milestone requiring that NCESSE submit to NanoRacks a formal list of materials to be used in the selected student experiments 3 months (90 days) before launch. Note that the milestones during this phase will likely be unaffected if the launch date slips, given that the participating communities are already driving against these milestones. The Timeline’s Phase 2, the “Timeline for selected experiments” is critically driven by the date of launch, so that all milestones in this phase are likely affected if the launch date slips.

We will provide new information, and updates on any launch changes, as they become available via the SSEP National Blog.

Note that the SSEP National Blog at this website is the PRIMARY SOURCE for ongoing and timely news updates for the SSEP program. We encourage ALL organizations and individuals interested in—and participating in—the SSEP to Subscribe to the Blog on the SSEP Home Page for email updates.

Launch Date History


Phase 1: The timeline through student experiments selection—

June 1, 2010: SSEP National Announcement of Opportunity.

June 1– August 1, 2010: 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.

August 1: Go-No-Go Decision 1: by this date, NASA must have announced a launch delay from mid-November 2010 to at least January 15, 2011.
UPDATE July 9, 2010, SSEP IS A GO. See this SSEP Blog Post.

August 6: final date for your community to submit to SSEP via email a formal Letter of Commitment of Funding (on letterhead of the funding organizations), with the proviso that the CREST-DreamUp payload is booked and will fly. 

By end of August: Go-No-Go Decision 2: based on the received Letters of Commitment, SSEP announces if NanoRacks has the number of booked experiment slots required to fly the CREST-DreamUp payload on STS-134.
UPDATE August 31, 2010: SSEP IS A GO.

September 13: final date for your community and SSEP to have a signed contract in place; by this date, SSEP must have received the signed contract, a check to Tides Center (NCESSE’s parent non-profit) for 50% of the total cost, and a check to Nanoracks for 100% of the catastrophic launch insurance cost; formal start of the SSEP program in your community.

September 13 – November 11 (9 weeks): community-wide engagement in SSEP; student teams frame experiments; student teams 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 8, so the size of your needed Step 1 Review Board can be determined and assembled in advance.

November 11: deadline for proposals to be submitted to your community’s lead organization on SSEP.

November 12-14: proposals are processed by your community’s lead organization on SSEP and distributed to your Step 1 Reviewers.

November 15-18: your community’s Step 1 Review Board completes review of proposals, and submits up to 4 finalist proposals to SSEP for each experimental slot you have reserved (up to 3 finalist proposals per reserved slot if you are participating in SSEP Program Option 3.)

November 18: deadline for Finalist Proposals to be received by SSEP Program via email for Step 2 Review.

November 19-21: finalist proposals from across the nation are processed by SSEP Team and distributed to Step 2 Reviewers.

November 22-25: WINNERS SELECTED. Step 2 Review completed, and list of proposals selected for flight are posted on this website.

November 26 (Launch minus 90 Days): SSEP team submits the experiment samples list for the selected experiments to ITA and NanoRacks, which pass it on to NASA toxicology at Johnson Space Center for Flight Safety Review. Samples list is due to 3 months (90 days) in advance of launch.

November 26: SSEP receives 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 15: Step 2 Review Board comments sent to your community for all finalist proposals.

Phase 2: The timeline for selected experiments—

Student teams with experiments selected for flight can continue to refine their experiments until March 2, but any modification to their list of samples is limited to varying the concentrations, more specifically, lowering of concentrations, and not addition of new sample materials.

December 27-28: (Launch minus 60 days): The student team is to send their experimental samples (fluids and solids) to ITA to conduct a Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test, to assess if the samples will degrade the seals on the MDA—which could cause a breach in the first level of containment required to protect the crew cabin on the Shuttle. NASA typically requires this test to be performed no earlier than 60 days from launch, but they can opt for an earlier test.

February 18 to March 5 (Launch minus 60 to 45 days): A final decision on the Flight Safety Review is expected from NASA, with a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ for a particular experiment’s list of samples. This decision is typically provided 30-45 days after NASA receives the samples list. It should be noted that during this period there may be a ‘negotiation’ between ITA, the student team, and NASA, where, e.g., a concentration for a particular fluid may need to be reduced for flight approval.

March 19 (Launch minus 30 Days): student experimenters can no longer ‘tweak’ a NASA-approved experiment samples list. The final flight-ready samples list is provided to ITA and NanoRacks.

April 19 to April 23 (Launch minus 10 to Launch minus 6 Days): student team sends flight-ready experimental samples to ITA. Note: if samples are time-sensitive, e.g., they contain living organisms, ITA will work with the student team to receive samples as late as Launch minus 3 Days. However, such an arrangement must be pre-approved by ITA or samples must be provided by Launch minus 6 Days.

April 26 (beginning at Launch minus 3 Days): samples are integrated into the MDA with the loading process expected to take 24 continuous hours, given up to 90 experiments are to be loaded; representative(s) of the student team can travel to Kennedy Space Center to watch the integration, and can hand-carry their samples if time-sensitive.

April 27 (Launch minus 2 Days): the CREST-DreamUp Payload is turned over to NASA, and is placed in a locker on Endeavour’s mid-deck.

April 29 (Date of Launch): 15-day flight of Endeavour begins.

On Landing (Launch plus 15 Days): representatives of the student team have the ability to receive the harvested samples at the Kennedy Space Center. Students can watch the samples being harvested on a monitor in a conference room next to the payload processing area. The community can instead opt to have ITA ship the harvested samples back via FEDEX with the cost borne by the community.

Note: the CREST-DreamUp payload is slated for early extraction. ITA receives the CREST-1 payload from NASA roughly 2 to 3 hours after landing. ITA then requires approximately 45 minutes to disassemble the payload and document via still photography and video the condition of the hardware at ITA’s on-site payload processing area. It is reasonable to expect that all MDA samples will be harvested within 24 hours of the payload being turned over to ITA after shuttle landing. Depending on the student science to be performed, it may be possible to harvest in 12 to 18 hours after the payload is turned over to ITA, however, the commercial and scientific communities will have harvest priority. Time critical student experiments will be harvested following time critical commercial and scientific community experiments.

Note: if the Shuttle is diverted to its landing site in California, e.g., Edwards Air Force Base, NASA will provide ITA the payload at the landing site, and ITA will fly it back to the payload processing facility at Kennedy Space Center. This will delay the start of the harvesting process 12 to 36 hours.

Late Spring 2011: student final reports posted on this website.

Summer 2011: students and teachers can attend SSEP National Conference held in Washington, DC., and report on experiment design, and flight experiment teams can report results.

Spring/Fall 2011: (if your community is participating in Option 1) the National Team travels to your community for student programs, public and family programs, and professional development for teachers if requested by your community.

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.