STS-134 Harvesting of Experiment Samples


MAY 26, 2011, TO REFLECT THE DELAY IN THE LAUNCH DATE FROM APRIL 29 TO MAY 16, THE CHANGE IN THE DURATION OF THE MISSION FROM 14 DAYS TO 16 DAYS, AND THE RESULTING CHANGE IN THE LANDING DATE TO JUNE 1. Note that the current landing date is the first opportunity for Endeavour to land; issues such as weather concerns at the landing site may delay the landing and lead to another revision of the schedule below.


This page provides student flight experiment teams comprehensive information on how their Experiment Samples (fluids and solids) are harvested from the MDA mini-lab after the Shuttle flight, and returned to them. Recall that the mini-lab is part of the NanoRacks CREST DreamUp payload on STS-134.

All questions regarding harvesting of Experiment Samples should be sent directly to Dr. Harri Vanhala, SSEP National Program Manager, at or 202-297-9178.

1. Harvesting Site

The need for specific lab facility capabilities required ITA to change the lab site used for both integration of the samples into the payload and harvesting of the samples. Originally a lab facility at the Florida Space Institute (FSI) at Kennedy Space Center was to be used. The lab site is now the NASA Space Life Sciences Lab (SLS Lab) at Kennedy.

Note: While FSI had an observation room where any students and teachers traveling to Kennedy Space Center can watch integration and harvesting, the SLS Lab does not. NCESSE has subsequently explored whether a live video feed from the SLS Lab could be ported to the internet, but the technical capability is not available at the SLS Lab. We are hoping that the harvesting process can be videotaped and a portion of the video can be uploaded to the SSEP website for later viewing.

2. Critical Timeline for Harvesting of Samples

Given the complexity of a Shuttle flight, and NASA’s discretionary ability to make schedule changes, all student teams are asked to remain flexible.

The Shuttle is scheduled to land at 2:32 am EDT on Wednesday, June 1. Note, however, that this date is the first opportunity for Endeavour to land; issues such as weather concerns at the landing site may delay the landing by a day or more, so keep in mind that all “Landing plus” milestones in the schedule below remain tentative. Note that all “Landing minus” dates are the same as for the original April 29 launch date, since those milestones had passed already by the time the launch was delayed to May 16.

Here is the harvesting schedule, with all times in EDT

Launch minus 14 Days (currently 3:47 pm, April 15, based on the original launch date): Student teams should decide if they are going to send a representative to Kennedy Space Center to receive their harvested samples in person.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the Student Team DOES NOT EXPECT to have a representative at Kennedy to pick up the harvested samples after the Shuttle lands, they MUST include in their shipment of samples to Kennedy, a fully completed FedEx airbill for overnight shipment of their harvested samples back to their community. See Section 6 below.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the Student Team DOES EXPECT to have a representative at Kennedy to pick up the harvested samples after the Shuttle lands, then by 3:47 pm, April 26 they MUST submit a notification to NCESSE that they are sending a representative. The notification must include: the name and contact information (email, and cell phone number) for the person that will pick up the samples. The notification must be sent to Harri Vanhala:

Launch minus 10 to 3 Days (currently 3:47 pm, April 19 to 3:47 pm, April 26, based on the original launch date): Student Team Experiment Samples arrive at Kennedy Space Center (see STS-134 Submission of Experiment Samples for Flight page)

Launch minus 3 Days (currently 3:47 pm, April 26, based on the original launch date): deadline for sending NCESSE a notification that your Student Team will be sending a representative to Kennedy to pick up your harvested samples

STS-134 Landing (currently 2:32 am, Wednesday, June 1)

Landing plus 4-5 Hours (currently by 7:32 am, Wednesday, June 1): ITA is expected to have received the CREST DreamUp payload from NASA

Landing plus 5-6 Hours (currently by 8:32 am, Wednesday, June 1): ITA should have completed disassembly of the payload, and documenting via still photography and video the condition of the hardware (this process requires approximately 45 minutes)

Landing plus 5-6 Hours (currently by 8:32 am, Wednesday, June 1): ITA should have started harvesting process. Time critical student experiments (those that have requested “early harvesting”) will be harvested before the less critical experiments, but it is reasonable to expect that all MDA samples will be harvested within 24 hours after NASA turns the payload over to ITA.  ITA will start shipping samples for experiments that have requested “early harvesting” as soon after receiving the payload as possible, and it is reasonable to expect that at least some of the samples will be FedExed to the communities on Wednesday afternoon. However, it is not possible to know which experiments will be harvested in time for Wednesday shipping, and the harvesting will continue to the following day, as necessary.

Landing plus 28-29 Hours (currently by 7:32 am, Thursday, June 2): ITA should have completed harvesting process.

Landing plus 35 hours (currently by 1:32 pm, Thursday, June 2): FedEx near Kennedy Space Center has received all harvested samples for shipment. At least some experiments that have requested “early harvesting” are likely to have their samples FedExed on Wednesday afternoon; this milestone represents the time at which all samples are scheduled to be shipped to the communities. All teams are advised to be ready to receive their shipments on both Thursday, June 2, and Friday, June 3.

Important Note: If the landing of the Shuttle is delayed by a day or more, the harvesting and shipping of samples will be delayed by the length of delay. For example, a delay of a day will push the shipping of samples to Friday, June 3, in which case the teams will need to be ready to receive their shipments on Saturday, June 4, as long they marked Saturday delivery request in their FedEx airbill. A landing delay of 2-3 days will push the shipping to the weekend, which means that the earliest delivery date possible is Monday, June 6, due to FedEx delivery schedules over the weekend. In this case, any benefit for early harvesting, if there is no team member to receive the samples at Kennedy, is fully lost without special handling instructions. Early harvesting makes sense if student teams have requested special handling for harvesting, such as refrigeration immediately after harvesting. In such a case, the samples can be shipped with cold packs in a foam box, if  the cold packs and the foam box were sent by the community and received by the MDA Payload Processing Lab (see Section 7 below.)

Important Note: if the Shuttle is diverted to its alternate landing site in California, Edwards Air Force Base, a NanoRacks representative will receive the payload from NASA at the landing site and then fly or ship it back to the payload processing facility at Kennedy Space Center. This will delay the start of the harvesting process by 12 to 36 hours.

3. Details on How the Samples Are Harvested

The ITA technicians that will extract experiments in the MDA are skilled technicians with almost two decades of experience working with the device. Fluids are extracted by pipettor; pipettor is analogous to a sophisticated eye dropper. Solids are very carefully extracted with tweezers. Any solids that cannot be extracted with tweezers because they have grown too large or become wedged or caught between the sliding blocks are extracted by separating the blocks following fluid extraction. In Type 2-Prime wells, the fluid is extracted through the top block using a pipettor. If a solid cannot be extracted through the top block, it may be extracted following the separation of the two blocks.

The NASA Space Life Sciences Lab (SLS Lab) where the samples will be harvested is a world-class laboratory with all the capability and systems necessary to host Shuttle and International Space Station experiment processing as well as associated biological and life sciences research. The facility contains many support laboratories and capabilities. The lab includes fume hoods with air, vacuum, and water, and a Class 100K clean-room environment.

4. Receiving Harvested Samples via Your Representative at Kennedy or via FedEx

When the samples have been harvested from the MDA in the NASA SLS Lab, they will be brought over to the FSI facility and given to the student representatives. For teams that did not send representatives to Kennedy for pickup, the samples will be FedExed using the airbill provided to ITA by the student team as part of their original shipment of samples to Kennedy.

Given the current landing schedule (see Section 2 above) harvested samples are not expected to be provided by ITA to FedEx until 35 hours after landing, or by 1:32 pm, Thursday, June 2.

Note: the delivery schedule may still change if: 1) the Shuttle has to land at its alternate landing site; or 2) the duration of the Shuttle mission is extended due to, e.g., bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center at the currently scheduled landing time. Updates on any changes in the harvesting schedule will be posted on the SSEP National Blog, with automatic email notification to all Blog subscribers.

5. Shipping Vials for Harvested Samples

ITA will reuse the vials the student teams used to submit their samples for flight. ITA will clean the vials once the Shuttle attains orbit and have them ready to receive the harvested samples after the flight. If, for some reason, a vial is unusable, the samples will be provided in a new vial supplied by ITA. If a team wants to use a new vial for their harvested samples, instead of having ITA reuse a cleaned container, the team can send empty vials for harvested samples when they send the original samples for loading before the flight. The team is just advised to follow carefully the instructions given on the STS-134 Submission of Experiment Samples for Flight page and mark the empty containers as being for the harvested samples.

6. Completing the FedEx Airbill


There are three options you can choose for your FedEx delivery:

First Overnight: the most expensive; most geographic areas in the continental US support this; and in these areas delivery is usually by 8, 8:30, 9 or 10 am the next business day.

Priority Overnight: cheaper than First Overnight; available in more geographic areas than First Overnight; and in these areas delivery is usually by 10:30 am the next business day (which is only 30 minutes to 2. 5 hours later than First Overnight).

FedEx Standard Overnight: cheapest; not quite as available as Priority Overnight in geographic regions across the continental U.S.; and in these areas delivery is usually by 3 p.m. the next business day.

Important directions for completing your FedEx airbill:

a. The team MUST fill out the airbill completely

b. You must include a FedEx account number or credit card number to be charged for shipping. To estimate your FedEx shipping costs, one can consider a reasonable example: for a box of less than one pound (of dimensions 6-inches square), here are projected shipping costs from the Kennedy Space Center area to:

Omaha, Nebraska: Priority Overnight $65.88, Standard Overnight $58.77
Seattle Washington: Priority Overnight $68.82, Standard Overnight $63.27

c. ITA will post the airbill as is on top of the package to be given to FedEx, and if there is any information missing on the airbill, the delivery of the package may be delayed.

d. Mark the contents of the package as “Flight Samples,” the type of packaging “Other”

e. Be sure to request signature for delivery

f. Do not mark a shipping date on the airbill, since the exact shipping date may yet change, depending on how the mission progresses.

g. Make sure to copy down the tracking number that is on your completed airbill (remember not to remove any of the sheets of the airbill), so that you can track the package once it has been shipped.

h. The teams can request delivery to either a business address or a residential address for all three overnight options. Delivery to a residential address is associated with a roughly $2.50 additional cost.

i. If the landing is delayed by a day from the currently scheduled landing date, a Saturday delivery will become a possibility. It is important to note that Saturday delivery is available for any of the three overnight options, so to be safe, you may want to mark the airbill to include Saturday delivery, though this will incur an extra charge.

7. Special Shipping for Harvested Samples

ITA will make every effort to honor any special shipping requests for the harvested samples, e.g., shipping with thermal controls such as heat or cold packs. The expectation is that any special shipping requests should have been provided, in detail, by the Student Team as part of the “Special Handling” section on the Flight Experiment Samples Submission Form. Any items needed to fulfill a special shipping request, e.g., heat or cold packs, need to be supplied by the Student Team, and sent to the FSI Lab Facility. It would be most appropriate to include such items in your pre-flight shipment of the experiment samples to Kennedy. The FSI Facility mailing address:

MDA Payload Processing Lab
Florida Space Institute
Astronaut Memorial Foundation
Attn: Mr. Robert Crabbs
State Road 405, Building M6-306
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899

Phone: 321-452-9834 x202
Fax: 321-452-4842

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.