STS-135 Critical Timeline – OLD


Below is a timeline of milestones for SSEP for the proposed STS-135 mission, the final flight of Shuttle Atlantis, and the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. We are moving forward with SSEP for STS-135 assuming that two highly expected decisions are made: 1) NASA formally declares they will fly STS-135, and 2) the launch date slips from the currently projected date of end-of-June 2011 to at least August 31, 2011. The milestone dates in the Critical Timeline below are tied to a launch date of August 31, 2011.

UPDATE February 13, 2011: NASA Managers insist STS-135 will fly “regardless” of the Congressional funding situation.
UPDATE January 20, 2011:
NASA formally added STS-135 to its launch schedule, awaits funding allocation from Congress.
UPDATE January 11, 2011: NASA considering late August launch for STS-135 to ensure availability of needed ISS spare parts.

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 new 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

  • Current Target Launch Date: June 28, 2011
  • Slip 1: launch date needs to slip to at least August 31, 2011 to enable SSEP on STS-135

Phase 1: The timeline through student experiments selection—

T= 0 (December 22, 2010): Rollout of SSEP National Announcement of Opportunity.

T= +10 weeks (December 22, 2010 – March 18, 2011): 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.

WE CAN HELP IDENTIFY FUNDING: Regarding identifying and securing funding, NCESSE can greatly assist – NCESSE found funding for 11 of 16 communities participating in SSEP for STS-134.

T= +3 months: March 18: 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 with the proviso that STS-135 will fly.

T= +3 months: March 18: Go-No-Go Decision 1: based on the received Letters of Commitment, SSEP announces if the minimum number of 10 booked experiment slots has been met.

T= +3 months: March 18: Go-No-Go Decision 2: by this date, NASA must have formally announced that STS-135 is flying, and a launch delay from June 28, 2011 until at least August 31, 2011.

T= +3 months: March 21: by this date, each participating community must begin work on a signed contract with NCESSE. NCESSE recognizes that having a signed contract in place with each participating community will take time, and not be possible by March 21 when communities need to begin their program. NCESSE will therefore begin full program operations for participating communities on March 21 with a common understanding that a signed contract must be in place no later than April 21, 2011.

March 21 – May 12 (8 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 mid-April, so the size of your needed Step 1 Review Board can be determined and assembled in advance.

HOW TO START SSEP IN YOUR COMMUNITY SOONER THAN MARCH 21: there will be formally 8 weeks from the start of SSEP in participating communities (March 21) to students’ submission of their proposals (May 12). However, your community can start as soon as a signed letter of commitment of funding is in place.

TO GET STARTED WITH SSEP IN YOUR COMMUNITY: read the To Teachers—How to Move Forward page.

T= +4 months: April 21: final date for your community and SSEP to have a signed contract in place; by this date, SSEP must have received the signed contract along with 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.

May 12: deadline for proposals to be submitted to your community’s lead organization on SSEP.

May 13-15: proposals are processed by your community’s lead organization on SSEP and distributed to your Step 1 Reviewers.

May 16-18: your community’s Step 1 Review Board completes review of proposals, and submits up to 3 finalist proposals to SSEP 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.

May 19: deadline for Finalist Proposals to be received by SSEP Program via email for Step 2 Review.

May 20-22: finalist proposals from across the nation are processed by SSEP Team and distributed to Step 2 Reviewers.

May 25-26: Step 2 Review Panel Meets and Winning Flight Experiments are Tentatively Selected.

May 27-30: NCESSE reviews Panel’s Comments, assesses if there are any outstanding questions regarding fluids/solids to be flown and special handling instructions, contacts student teams for any clarification or missing information, and formally Selects Winners. List of proposals selected for flight are posted on this website.

May 31 (Launch minus 90 Days): SSEP team submits the experiment samples list for the selected experiments to ITA for formal review, and handoff to NamoRacks and NASA toxicology at Johnson Space Center for Flight Safety Review. Samples list is due to ITA 3 months (90 days) in advance of launch.

May 31 (Launch minus 90 Days): deadline for SSEP 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.

Phase 2: The timeline for selected experiments—

Student teams with experiments selected for flight can continue to refine their experiments until July 31, 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.

June 30 (Launch minus 60 days): student team sends experimental samples to ITA to conduct a Fluid/Sample Compatibility Test, to assess in the lab if 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. Samples to be test must be identical to the samples to be flown.

June 30 to July 15 (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.

July 31 (Launch minus 30 Days): student experimenters can no longer ‘tweak’ (reduce concentrations) on their NASA-approved experiment samples list. The final flight-ready samples list is provided to ITA and NanoRacks, and turned over to NASA.

July 31 (Launch minus 30 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 load the samples into the MDA a few hours before the CREST-DreamUp payload is turned over to NASA (see next two milestones). However, such an arrangement must be pre-approved by ITA or samples must be provided by July 31.

August 24 (beginning at Launch minus 7 Days): samples are integrated into the MDA with the loading process expected to take 48 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.

August 30 (Launch minus 24 Hours): the CREST-DreamUp Payload is turned over to NASA, and is placed in a locker on Endeavour’s mid-deck.

August 31 (assumed date of Launch): flight of Atlantis begins.
On Landing: 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.

Early Summer 2011: students and teachers can attend the SSEP National Conference in Washington, DC, and report on experiment design.

Early 2012: student final reports posted on this website.

Fall 2011/Spring 2012: If supplemental community-wide programming was requested, a National Team of scientists, engineers, and educators travels to your community to conduct, e.g., student programs, public and family programs, and professional development for teachers.

Summer 2012: students and teachers can attend the SSEP National Conference in Washington, DC, and report on experiment results.

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.