STS-135 Harvesting of Experiment Samples

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: 12:30 pm EDT, July 13, 2011

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 are returned to them. Recall that the mini-lab is part of the NanoRacks CREST DreamUp payload on STS-135.

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

ITA will harvest the STS-135 experiment samples at the NASA Space Life Sciences Lab (SLS Lab) at Kennedy Space Center. We are exploring the possibility of providing live video feed of the harvesting from the SLS Lab to the internet. If this is not possible, 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 5:56 am EDT on Thursday, July 21. Note, however, that this date is the first opportunity for Atlantis 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.

Here is the harvesting schedule, with all times in EDT—

STS-135 Landing (currently 5:56 am EDT on Thursday, July 21)

Landing plus 4-5 Hours (currently by 10:56 am, Thursday, July 21): ITA is expected to have received the CREST DreamUp payload from NASA.

Landing plus 5-6 Hours (currently by 11:56 am, Thursday, July 21): 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 11:56 am, Thursday, July 21): 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. The shipping of samples for experiments that have requested “early harvesting” will start as soon after harvesting as possible, and it may be possible that at least some of the samples will be FedExed to the communities on Thursday afternoon. However, it is not possible to know which experiments will be harvested in time for Thursday shipping, and most experiment samples are likely not going to be shipped until the following day.

Landing plus 28-29 Hours (currently by 10:56 am, Friday, July 22): ITA should have completed harvesting process.

Landing plus 36 hours (currently by 5:56 pm, Friday, July 22): FedEx near Kennedy Space Center has received all harvested samples for shipment. While some experiments that have requested “early harvesting” may be FedExed on Thursday afternoon, this milestone represents the time by which all samples are scheduled to be shipped to the student teams. All teams are advised to be ready to receive their shipments on both Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23.

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. 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. Updates on any changes in the harvesting schedule will be posted on this page, as well as on the SSEP National Blog, with automatic email notification to all Blog subscribers.

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 Florida Space Institute facility (FSI; see the address in Section 6 below) and given to the student representatives. For teams that do not send representatives to Kennedy for pickup, the samples will be FedExed using the airbill the student team provided as part of their original shipment of samples to Kennedy. Given the current landing schedule (see Section 2 above), some harvested samples will be FedExed on Thursday, July 21, but most will be sent on Friday, July 22. All teams are advised to be ready to receive their shipments on both Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23. Note that FedEx will deliver the package on Saturday only if this was specifically marked on your FedEx airbill; otherwise the package will not be delivered until Monday, July 25.

Teams that plan to pick up the harvested samples in person should have requested this option when they sent in the Flight Experiment Samples Submission Form. Teams that want their harvested samples FedExed should have included a fully completed return FedEx airbill in their pre-flight shipment of samples.

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 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 before the Shuttle lands to the address provided in Section 6 below. The team must use allowed vials whose specifications are provided on the STS-135 Submission of Experiment Samples for Flight page. The Team must also alert Dr. Harri Vanhala at NCESSE that they are sending new vials for harvested samples.

6. Special Shipping Requests 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. 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. If the team sent heat or cold packs with their submission of flight samples, ITA will reuse the packs, but if not, the required items must be sent to ITA before the Shuttle lands. The mailing address for the special shipping items is:

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 teams are advised to alert NCESSE and ITA that they are sending new special shipping supplies for the harvested samples.

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.