Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Heritage

Last update of this page: February 14, 2023, 8:17 am ET, to include SSEP Mission 18 to ISS


Night launch of SpaceX-5, January 10, 2015, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, adjoining Kennedy Space Center. Aboard the Dragon spacecraft is the SSEP Mission 6 to ISS Yankee Clipper II payload of 17 experiments. Yankee Clipper II payload operations were conducted on the International Space Station for nearly a month before Dragon de-orbit and splashdown in the Pacific off the California coast on February 10, 2015. These experiments were originally lost with the destruction of the Orbital Sciences 3 rocket on October 28, 2014. You can read an essay written by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP National Program Director, about the emotional loss of the original Yankee Clipper I experiments and how the student flight teams stepped to the plate and worked to reconstitute the experiments for re-flight. The mantra at SSEP – real spaceflight all the time.  


Established in June 2010, the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) has an extensive heritage delivering real on-orbit research experiences for students in grades 5-16.

Since program inception there have been 19 SSEP flight opportunities—SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, which were the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis; and SSEP Missions 1 through 17 to ISS. A total of 221 communities have participated in the program, reflecting 42 States and the District of Columbia in the U. S.; 5 Provinces in Canada; and Brazil and Ukraine each conducting national competitions. Thus far 70 communities have participated in multiple flight opportunities – 51 communities conducting four or more flights – reflecting the sustainable nature of the program.

Through the first 19 flight opportunities (through Mission 17), a total of 147,660 grade 5-16 students across 3,161 schools were fully immersed in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing, 29,526 flight experiment proposals were received from student teams, and 382 experiments were selected for flight. Through Mission 16, 189,000 students across the entire grade preK-16 pipeline were engaged in their communities’ broader STEAM experience, submitting 160,400 Mission Patch designs.

343 of 382 experiments selected for flight through Mission 17 have now flown. 24 Mission 16 experiments launched on SpaceX-26, November 26, 2022, from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – the same pad from which all the Apollo missions to the Moon launched. The Mission 16 experiments returned to Earth on January 11, 2023. Another 11 Mission 14 and 15 experiments launched on SpaceX-22, June 3, 2021, and SpaceX-23, August 29, 2021.

Summary of Flight Opportunities to Date

Flight opportunities to date are summarized below. For a detailed list of critical milestones for each flight opportunity, visit the SSEP Flight Opportunities to Date page, and open the toggle labeled “Click Here to See Summaries of SSEP Missions Critical Milestones”. 

Final Flight of Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134)
launched May 16, 2011, carrying 16 SSEP Experiments (SSEP1 Eagle payload)

Final Flight of Shuttle Atlantis, and of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program (STS-135)
launched July 8, 2011, carrying 11 SSEP experiments (SSEP2 Intrepid payload)

SSEP Mission 1 to the International Space Station
launched May 22, 2012, aboard SpaceX Dragon demonstration flight (COTS 2+) – the first commercial vehicle to berth with ISS, with 15 SSEP Mission 1 experiments (SSEP3 Aquarius payload)

SSEP Mission 2 to the International Space Station
launched October 7, 2012, aboard SpaceX-1 – the first operational flight of the Dragon spacecraft, with 11 SSEP Mission 2 experiments (SSEP4 Antares payload); and 12 SSEP
Mission 1 re-flight experiments (SSEP3b Aquarius II payload)

SSEP Mission 3 to the International Space Station
Mission 3a: launched September 18, 2013, aboard Orbital Sciences Demonstration 1 (Orb-D1), the first time the Cygnus spacecraft berthed with ISS, with 5 (of 17) SSEP Mission 3 experiments; 1 SSEP Mission 1 re-flight experiment; and 1 SSEP Mission 2 re-flight experiment (in toto the SSEP5a Falcon I payload)

Mission 3b: launched January 9, 2014, aboard Orb-1, the first operational flight of the Cygnus spacecraft, with 12 (of 17) SSEP Mission 3 experiments; (SSEP5b Falcon II payload)

SSEP Mission 4 to the International Space Station
launched January 9, 2014, aboard Orb-1, the first operational flight of the Cygnus spacecraft, with 11 SSEP Mission 4 experiments (SSEP6 Orion payload)

SSEP Mission 5 to the International Space Station
launched July 13, 2014, aboard Orb-2, with 15 SSEP Mission 5 experiments (SSEP7 Charlie Brown payload)

SSEP Mission 6 to the International Space Station
launched October 28, 2014, aboard Orb-3, with 18 SSEP Mission 6 experiments (SSEP8 Yankee Clipper payload); payload lost on launch failure and subsequent detonation of rocket; 17 of 18 experiments reconstituted as Yankee Clipper II payload (SSEP8b), launched on January 10, 2015, aboard SpaceX-5

SSEP Mission 7 to the International Space Station
launched June 28, 2015, aboard SpaceX-7, with 27 SSEP experiments (SSEP9 Odyssey payload): 24 Mission 7 experiments, 1 re-flight experiment from Mission 6, and 2 re-flight experiments from Mission 5; payload lost on rocket failure approximately 2 minutes after launch; 23 of 24 Mission 7 experiments, and 2 of the 3 re-flight experiments (1 from Mission 5 and 1 from Mission 6), were reconstituted as Odyssey II payload (SSEP9b) and launched April 8, 2016, aboard SpaceX-8.

SSEP Mission 8 to the International Space Station
launched July 18, 2016, aboard SpaceX-9, with 15 SSEP Mission 8 experiments (SSEP10 Kitty Hawk payload)

SSEP Mission 9 to the International Space Station
launched February 19, 2017, aboard SpaceX-10, with 22 SSEP experiments (SSEP11 Endeavor payload): 21 SSEP Mission 9 experiments and 1 re-flight experiment from Mission 7

SSEP Mission 10 to the International Space Station
launched June 3, 2017, aboard SpaceX-11, with 11 SSEP Mission 10 experiments (SSEP12 Casper payload)

SSEP Mission 11 to the International Space Station
launched August 14, 2017, aboard SpaceX-12, with 21 SSEP Mission 11 experiments and 1 SSEP Mission 9 experiment (SSEP13 America payload)

SSEP Mission 12 to the International Space Station
launched June 29, 2018, aboard SpaceX-15, with 34 SSEP Mission 12 experiments (SSEP14 Mercury payload)

SSEP Mission 13 to the International Space Station
launched July 25, 2019, aboard SpaceX-18, with 41 SSEP Mission 13 experiments (SSEP15 Gemini payload)

SSEP Mission 14 to the International Space Station
M14A launched December 6, 2020, aboard SpaceX-21, with 27 SSEP Mission 14 experiments; M14B launched June 3, 2021, aboard Space X-22, with 3 SSEP Mission 14 experiments; M14C launched August 29, 2021, aboard SpaceX-23, with 1 Mission 14 experiment; M14D launched November 26, 2022, aboard SpaceX-26, with 1 Mission 14 experiment (SSEP16 Apollo payload)

SSEP Mission 15 to the International Space Station
M15A launched June 3, 2021, aboard Space X-22, with 2 SSEP Mission 15 experiments; M15B launched August 29, 2021, aboard SpaceX-23, with 3 Mission 15 experiments. (SSEP17 Skylab payload)

SSEP Mission 16 to the International Space Station
launched November 26, 2022, aboard SpaceX-26, with 24 SSEP Mission 16 experiments (SSEP18 Ranger payload)

SSEP Mission 17 to the International Space Station
M17 experiments are expected to launch late spring / summer 2023 (SSEP19 Orbiter payload)

SSEP Mission 18 to the International Space Station
 program start September 1, 2023 (SSEP20 Surveyor payload)

Further Reading

We invite you to explore the SSEP Launch and On-Orbit Operations History page, which provides a sense of the already rich history of the SSEP Program. Here you will find a list of SSEP missions and payload designations; videos of all SSEP launches; a list of all astronauts that have operated SSEP experiments, together with their biographies and how to follow them on social media; and videos of astronauts operating the experiments.

To gauge program impact, you are invited to read the In Our Own Words and the SSEP In the News pages, and explore the Showcase of Community-Created Videos, at the separate SSEP Community Network Hubsite. You are also invited to explore the Full SSEP National Blog Archive, which documents the history of the program since inception.

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.