School Districts: Immerse Students In Real-World Space Station Experimentation


October 23, 2014 – The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, in partnership with NanoRacks LLC, announce a new opportunity for school districts in the United States and internationally to participate in the tenth flight opportunity of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

Launched in June 2010, SSEP was designed as a model U.S. National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program that immerses approximately 300 students across a community in every facet of authentic scientific research of their own design, using a highly captivating spaceflight opportunity on the International Space Station (ISS). The program is designed to inspire and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“SSEP is designed to empower the student as scientist, and within the real-world context of science. Student teams design a real experiment, propose for a real flight opportunity, experience a formal proposal review, and go through a NASA flight safety review. They even have their own science conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where they are immersed in their own community of researchers,” said Dr. Jeff Goldstein, creator of SSEP and NCESSE Center Director. “SSEP is about introducing real science to our children and if you give them a chance to be scientists, stand back and be amazed.”

The SSEP Mission 8 to ISS will provide each participating community a real research mini-laboratory capable of supporting a single microgravity experiment and all launch services to fly the mini-lab to ISS in Fall 2015, and return it safely to Earth for scientific analysis.

Mirroring how professional research is done, student teams submit research proposals and go through a formal proposal review process to select the flight experiment. The design competition – from program start, to experiment design, to submission of proposals by student teams – spans 9 weeks from February 23 to April 24, 2015.

A curriculum and content resources for teachers and students supports foundational instruction on science conducted in a weightless environment and experiment design. Additional SSEP program elements leverage the experience to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education.

SSEP provides seamless integration across STEM disciplines through an authentic high visibility research experience. For school districts, or even individual schools, SSEP provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber STEM education program tailored to community need. More broadly, SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as a journey, and to the joys of learning.

SSEP is open to U.S. schools and school districts serving grade 5 through 12 students, 2- and 4-year colleges and university, informal science education organizations, and internationally through the Center’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. SSEP is not designed for an individual class or a small number of students in a community.

Student teams are able to design experiments across diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. Experiments require design to the technology and engineering constraints imposed by the mini-laboratory, and flight operations to and from low Earth orbit.

SSEP Mission 8 to ISS includes an experiment design competition February 23-April 24, 2015. Flight experiments are selected by May 28, 2015, for a ferry flight to ISS in Fall 2015. All communities interested in participating in Mission 8 are directed to inquire no later than November 15, 2014.

For more information on SSEP Mission 8 to ISS flight opportunity, and to get a detailed understanding of the program, visit the SSEP home page: