How to Participate


Before reading this page, make sure to read the SSEP Home page, and then the About SSEP page.


Congressional testimony November 5, 2019, at the hearing Building the Space Workforce of the Future: STEM Engagement for a 21st Century Education. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is showcased by Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, at time stamp 26 min 47 sec. Read more about the hearing and SSEP’s role in the new era of commercial space, where in the coming decade private citizens will travel to space, and even vacation in space in orbiting hotels.


NEW Flight Opportunity
February 3, 2020: Announcing SSEP Mission 15 to the International Space Station (ISS) (Press Release)

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), announces an immediate opportunity for communities across the U.S. to participate in the 17th Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) flight opportunity, and the 15th to America’s National Laboratory in space—the International Space Station (ISS). Mission 15 is also available to communities internationally through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, NCESSE’s international arm.

Mission 15 to ISS provides for a 9-week experiment design competition September to November 2020, flight experiment selection by mid-December 2020, and a ferry flight to ISS for Skylab – the SSEP Mission 15 experiments payload – in Late Spring 2021, with a return to Earth after a nominal 4-6 week stay on Station.

Program operations in all participating communities begin September 1, 2020. Communities must be aboard by August 24, 2020. Communities typically require pre-planning to begin 3 to 4 months prior to program start to allow time to assemble and secure buy-in from a Local Team of teachers; embed the program into the existing curricular landscape, with strategic connections to STEM disciplines; and secure funding. NCESSE stands ready to help interested communities in the U.S.and Canada identify and secure the needed funding (see below).

All interested communities are urged to contact NCESSE as soon as possible to explore participation in Mission 15 to ISS, but no later than March 27, 2020.

Co-Principal Investigators Alexandra Anderson, Isabella Diaz, Nora Lee, Aya Mtume, Abigail Wall, and Elizabeth Wyshner, presenting results of their microgravity experiment The Development of Venessa cardui Butterflies in Microgravity at the 2016 SSEP National Conference, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, June 29-30, 2016. Together with their Co-PI Olivia Adamczyk, they are the flight experiment research team from Summit, New Jersey, for SSEP Mission 10 to ISS. For more video clips of SSEP research team presentations at the 2011 through 2018 Conferences, visit the SSEP Scientific Return and Reporting page.


The International Space Station (ISS) with Endeavour (STS-135) docked. 16 SSEP Experiments are aboard. ISS dwarfs Endeavour. CLICK FOR ZOOM

Mission 15 to ISS Flight Opportunity – An Overview

Each community participating in Mission 15 will be provided all launch services to fly a real microgravity research mini-laboratory containing a single flight experiment to the International Space Station (ISS). Student teams across the community will engage in a flight experiment design competition, where each team of typically 3-5 students designs a microgravity experiment, and submits a formal flight experiment proposal. A participating pre-college community (grades 5-12) typically engages 300+ students (at least 100 students). For an undergraduate community at least 30 students need to be engaged. As is the case with professional researchers, each team is vying for the limited research asset provided to their community – a single flight slot to transport one experiment to ISS where it will be operated by the astronauts. Additional SSEP programming leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the community, embracing NCESSE’s Learning Community Model for STEM education. This includes an art and design competition to select mission patches which will accompany the community’s selected flight experiment to space.

SSEP Mission 15 to ISS is currently the only SSEP flight opportunity available.

Mission 15 participation is open to the following five categories of communities:

  • Pre-College (the core focus for SSEP) in the U.S., (grades 5-12), with a participating school district—even an individual school—providing a stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunity to their upper elementary, middle, and high school students
  • 2-Year Community Colleges in the U.S., (grades 13-14), where the student body is typically from the local community, providing wonderful pathways for community-wide engagement
  • 4-Year Colleges and Universities in the U.S., (grades 13-16), with an emphasis on Minority-Serving Institutions, where the program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and departments, and an opportunity for formal workforce development for science majors
  • Communities in the U.S. led by Informal Education or Out-of-School Organizations, (e.g., a museum or science center, a homeschool network, a boy scout troop), because high caliber STEM education programs must be accessible to organizations that promote effective learning beyond the traditional classroom
  • Communities Internationally: in European Space Agency (ESA) member nations, European Union (EU) member nations, Canada, and Japan, with participation through NCESSE’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. Communities in other nations should explore the potential for their participation by contacting the Institute


Videos and Articles Providing an Overview of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program 

For a good background on SSEP, and to introduce the opportunity to key individuals and stakeholder organizations in your community, watch the two Video Clips by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program creator and Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Also read the exceptional recent article in Scientific American showcasing SSEP.

Scientific American Showcases SSEP, February 17, 2015

Clip 1: Mission Control interview, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, carried live on NASA TV on January 9, 2014, for the launch of the Orbital Science 1 (Orb-1) rocket with SSEP Mission 3b Falcon II and Mission 4 Orion experiments payloads to the International Space Station.


Clip 2: NASA Pre-Flight Science Briefing for the Orbital Sciences 3 (Orb-3) launch, carried live on NASA TV on October 26. 2014. Orb-3 was to carry the SSEP Mission 6 Yankee Clipper experiments payload to the International Space Station. NOTE – SSEP program overview starts at time stamp 10 minutes 50 seconds. 


Critical Elements Associated with the SSEP Mission 15 to ISS Flight Opportunity

1. Time Available for Experiment Design:
Your Student Teams, led by your designated SSEP Local Team of Teacher Facilitators, will have 9 weeks from program start to proposal submission: September 1 through November 4, 2020. During this time, core activities include:

  • introducing SSEP curricular content for foundational instruction on: the nature of microgravity, science conducted in microgravity, mini-laboratory operation, and experimental design
  • defining student teaming, and facilitation of microgravity experiment design across all student teams
  • each team writing a formal 5-page grade level appropriate flight experiment proposal

Note that NCESSE has a significant number of Teacher and Student Resources that make this process straight-forward, including an instructionally designed recipe allowing teachers to easily facilitate: an introduction of the program in the classroom, experiment design, and proposal writing.

2. Key Milestones:

  • Experiment Design and Proposal Writing (9 weeks): September 1 – November 4, 2020
  • Flight Experiment Proposals due to your lead institution: November 4, 2020
  • Local Step 1 Review Board selects 3 finalist proposals and submits to NCESSE: November 13, 2020
  • Formal Selection of your community’s flight experiment: December 17, 2020
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload to ISS, estimated launch date: Late Spring 2021
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload back to Earth: typically Launch Plus 4-6 weeks
  • SSEP National Conference for students: late June or early July 2021 and 2022, most likely held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the site of the 2011 through 2019 Conferences

For a formal schedule with all milestone dates, go to the SSEP Mission 15 to ISS: Critical Timeline page

Finding Your Community Funding:
We stand ready to aggressively help your community identify funders capable of a short turn-around, talk to funders on your behalf and/or in coordination with you, and help write any needed proposals. NCESSE rapidly found full or partial funding for 224 of 303 SSEP community programs undertaken as part of the first 16 SSEP flight opportunities, and we now have active relationships with a significant network of hundreds of funders across the nation.

We have also assembled the following suite of resources for fundraising:

  • a bulleted list of powerful SSEP talking points that can be called upon when talking to a potential funder
  • extensive experience successfully talking to funders about SSEP on behalf of interested communities
  • databases of funders on a regional and local level, that allow us to rapidly do a search for appropriate funders
  • a proposal template with straight-forward sections that address a community’s demographics and strategic needs in STEM education. The template allows a proposal to be written and submitted to a funder (if needed) with no more than a 2-3 hour investment of time.

Letters of Commitment of Funding from Participating Communities: due August 24, 2020
Mission 15 to ISS Starts in Participating Communities: September 1, 2020

ASAP: Interested communities are directed to contact NCESSE as soon as possible, but no later than March 27, 2020, to explore participation. 

 For more details on Mission 15 flight operations, go to the SSEP Mission 15 to the International Space Station page


5. Getting Your Community Interested and Aboard:
NCESSE Center Director Jeff Goldstein, the creator of SSEP, would be happy to have a teleconference or Skype video-conference with your community to introduce the program to your key leadership (e.g., school and district leadership), and to the Local Team of educators that you would charge with carrying out the program. Conference call objectives: provide an overview of the program to your team, answer any questions, and help you explore tailoring the program to your community’s strategic needs in STEM education. A conference call provides your team the ability to rapidly assess if you’d like to participate in SSEP. These conference calls have been exceedingly successful, even essential, in getting communities aboard for the first 15 SSEP flight opportunities.

To gauge program success, see the following pages:

Download a 3-Page SSEP Program Overview for Mission 15 to ISS (MS Word)
This is a MS Word document appropriate for emailing to colleagues, or for print distribution. If this MS Word document is opened on screen, all the links to relevant content on SSEP web pages will be active, and you can click on a link as needed to see the web content in the appropriate context.


We have a limited number of mini-laboratory slots available for SSEP Mission 15 to ISS, and urge interested communities to call or email, ASAP, Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education ( Complete contact information may be found on the Contact page. Dr. Goldstein will set up a phone call with you to explore whether this program makes sense for your community, and how we can help get you aboard.

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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.