Launch Plans for STS-135

All NEWLY updated information is in GREEN TEXT below.
Information still to be determined 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: July 3, at 9:39 AM EDT


The Launch Plans are based on the Currently Scheduled STS-135 Liftoff:
11:26 am EDT, Friday, July 8, 2011 (see NASA Launch Schedule)

For the STS-135 Launch Plan detailed below (July 7 – July 11), we have 284 attendees in 62 vehicles traveling to KARS Park at NASA KSC on July 8, and 167 attending the SSEP Community Network Meeting on July 9.

A. Basic Travel Information

1. Airline and 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.

However, we strongly advise you to use Southwest, which only flies into Orlando. Here is why—

Everyone traveling to Florida needs to be aware that you’re planning a trip—with significant expense—to see a historic event that may not happen on the date it is scheduled. You may book travel and then find a day later that the launch is postponed. Or … everything is going just fine, you get to Florida and then you find the launch is delayed (“scrubbed”) to a date after your scheduled departure, and you’d like to stay a few more days in the hope of seeing Atlantis launch. The main problem is airfare. For most carriers, if you book at their cheap, non-refundable rate, and you need to make a change, you’ll pay a significant change fee per ticket (typically $150) AND you’ll need to pay the difference between the fare you already paid and the new fare. The new fare could be $1,000 or more higher than your original purchase price given most carriers dramatically increase the cost of a ticket as you get closer to the travel date. With the change fee, you might be looking at a $1,200 per ticket added cost—on top of the original price you paid! But that is not the case with Southwest—

If you book on line, Southwest offers Wanna Get Away non-refundable fares which are very reasonable. And if you need to change your flight, there is no change fee and the price difference you pay is the difference between their Wanna Get Away fare and their refundable Anytime fare. But the Anytime fare does not change as you get closer to the travel date. That means you know right now what the potential added cost of a change would be. Also, the Anytime fare is refundable. So if you end up making a flight change, but then end up not going to Florida (say the Shuttle is delayed yet again to a date you cannot attend), you can get reimbursed for the difference between the Wanna Get Away fare and the Anytime fare.

You cannot beat Soutwest’s fare structure if you need to build into your thinking that the launch can slip—and you DO need to build that into your thinking.

Note: The STS-135 Flight Readiness Review (FRR)—the formal NASA assessment if STS-135 is ready to fly—is currently scheduled for June 28. But as is always the case for planning to attend a Shuttle launch, you cannot wait for the FRR before you book travel. It is too close to launch, and flights/hotels will no longer be available.

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 more behind-the-scenes tours, either Discover KSC: Today and Tomorrow or Cape Canaveral: Then and Now. The added cost of a behind-the-scenes 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 SSEP Launch Plan for STS-135 (July 7–11, 2011)

1. Points of Reference

a. NASA has graciously offered to provide access for SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members to the KARS Park launch viewing area on Kennedy Space Center grounds (see Section 4 below). Our total attendance is currently projected to be 284, and we will be locking in our attendance totals (numbers of attendees and needed vehicles) through signed Launch Viewing Agreements with all SSEP participating communities.
Update: all Launch Viewing Agreements have now been signed and returned to NCESSE.

b. We realize that groups from across the SSEP Community Network might all go down for the launch, and NASA could cancel the launch while we’re in Florida. It happened with STS-134. So our Launch Plan includes a morning get-together we’re calling the SSEP Community Network Meeting (on July 9)—which is meant to ensure 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. The SSEP Community Network Meeting for STS-134 was great.

c. We are excited to again be partnering on the Launch Plan with NASA Nebraska Space Grant Program, one of our SSEP National Partners, and working with Michaela Lucas, their Associate Director. A heartfelt thank you to Michaela. Teamwork … it’s what holds a family together.

2. Key Thinking for Planning

Fly in as late as possible before the launch so that if the 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 a few days. However, we strongly advise you NOT to fly in the day of the launch, which will likely cause you to miss it. In addition, for a morning launch, there is no ability for you to fly in on the same day and get to NASA Kennedy on time.

3. Schedule

Thursday, July 7

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 the 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 either the owner or manager at all three restaurants. They said that they can’t reserve an entire area in their establishment for SSEP since we don’t know how many folks will show up. But they suggest you call the 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) to confirm

Milliken’s Reef
683 Dave Nisbet Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Rochelle (the banquet party manager) to confirm

Friday, July 8

STS-135 Launch currently scheduled for 11:26 am EDT

All SSEP Attendees have a common viewing area at KARS Park. We are planning on ARRIVAL AT KSC AT 6:30 am, but all attendees MUST be part of the car caravan to KARS Park from a designated local rendezvous point where we will all be meeting at 5:45 am (see Section 4 below).
UPDATE: the location of the rendezvous point has been sent to all SSEP Community Program Directors and Co-Directors for dissemination to their parties attending from the SSEP Communities, and to Points of Contact for all other SSEP guest parties.

Saturday, July 9

SSEP Community Network Meeting at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) 8:00 am to 12:00 pm: students, teachers, and family members invited to attend from all participating SSEP on STS-135 Communities

Also possibly a day for a new launch attempt if launch was scrubbed from prior day (the case of a 24-hour launch scrub). If this happens, the SSEP Community Network Meeting at FIT would need to be canceled.

Sunday, July 10

KSC Visitor Complex Day: all attendees are on their own to travel to the Visitor Complex. See Section A.2 above for details on Visitor Complex attractions, tours, and contact information.

Also possibly a day for a new launch attempt if launch was scrubbed two days earlier (the case of a 48-hour launch scrub—what initially happened for STS-134)

Monday, July 11

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 and their families 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 – but see note on food below), pavilions, and it’s a great place to bring your football and/or soccer ball. How about an SSEP game of tag football?

At the Park, there will be: Astronaut Autographs, a NASA Education Station, a DJ, and “KABOOM!!”, a science show presented by the Orlando Science Center at 8:30 am and 10:00 am.

Due to the size of our group, and NASA’s concern over very heavy traffic, we will plan on getting to KARS Park at 6:30 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.

There will be a $10 parking fee at KARS Park per vehicle.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if the July 8 launch is scrubbed, and is rescheduled for July 9 or 10, we are still being granted access to KARS Park for either of these rescheduled launch days.

Food for Our Group at KARS Park:
The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) has provided a gift to the SSEP program to underwrite both breakfast snacks and a full lunch for the SSEP attendees at the Park. Available as breakfast snacks will be orange juice, apple juice, donuts, bagels, and cream cheeese. Lunch will be an assortment of deli sandwiches from Publix Supermarkets, with build-your-own sandwich add-ons of lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, banana peppers, and condiments. Lunch will also include potato and macaroni salads, coleslaw, and an assortment of drinks: bottled water, Pepsi/Diet Pepsi, and Coke/Diet Coke.

At the Park, food will also be available for purchase from Chick-fil-A.

Getting to KARS Park:
we will all be traveling using your rental cars. We will define a local rendezvous point away from KSC, car caravan to KARS Park, and go on-site together.

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 6:20 am, which means that all cars must be at the rendezvous point by 5:45 am so that we can hand out the placards that need to be displayed on all vehicle dashboards for KARS Park access. 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.

UPDATE: the location of the rendezvous point has been sent to all SSEP Community Program Directors and Co-Directors for dissemination to their parties attending from the SSEP Communities, and to Points of Contact for all other SSEP guest parties.


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!

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.
We will all be parking right next to the pavillion.

5. Community Network Meeting on July 9

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.

NOTE: if NASA delays the launch before attendees travel to Florida (before the official July 7 travel date) then the Community Network Meeting will be rescheduled to coincide with the new launch date.


• Not too long as to tax the attendees: 8:00 am to 12:00 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 community presentations on their experiences
• hear featured guests


8:00-8:30 socializing over continental breakfast

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

8:40-9:00 Keynote: Science, it’s Not a Book of Knowledge … it’s a Journey
J. Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, Center Director, NCESSE [bio]

9:00-9:10 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

9:10-9:20 Community Experience Presentation 1
Dr. Jorge Valdes, SSEP Community Program Co-Director, Bridgewater-Raritan, New Jersey

9:20-9:40 Break

9:40-9:50 Community Experience Presentation 2
Amanda Arceo, SSEP Community Program Director, Crown Point, Indiana

9:50-10:10 So You Want to Know How Your Experiments Are Integrated
into the Shuttle?
Jeffrey Manber, Managing Director, NanoRacks / Mike Johnson, CTO, NanoRacks

10:10-10:30 STEM Education – Vital for the Future of America
Dr. Alicia Abella, Executive Director, Innovative Services Research Department, AT&T Labs
Member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
White House Press Release, May 26, 2011

10:30-10:50 Break
challenge for upcoming discussions: think about how SSEP has made a difference for you

10:50-11:00 For Teachers and Parents: has the SSEP experience made a difference? How?

11:00-11:10 Community Experience Presentation 3
Kori Milroy, SSEP Community Program Director, Chicago, Illinois

11:10-11:25 Space Grant Opportunities for Students
Michaela Flynn-Lucas, Associate Director, NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium

11:25-11:35 Dream Big – My Life Interning at Honeybee Robotics, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Lockheed Martin
Nate Otten, Senior, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

11:35-11:45 Debrief: How Do We Make SSEP Better?

11:45-11:55 The Future of SSEP: SSEP on the International Space Station, and National Conference in Washington, DC
J. Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, Center Director

11:55-12:05 Students’ Last Word: has the SSEP experience made a difference? How?

12:05 Group Hug and Group Photo Op (remember to bring your cameras:)

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 don’t expect this to be a problem, however, if we have more folks that want to attend the meeting 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.

Underwriting for the meeting space 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 National Center for Earth and Space Science Education is underwriting the continental breakfast.

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.