Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Mission 5 Website

The Student Space Flight Experiments Program [or just "SSEP"] ( is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE; in partnership with Nanoracks, LLC.

This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory."


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A STEAM Village Kansas City SSEP Approved Implementation Plan



Watch Video About the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program

SSEP Mission 5 to ISS: Designing the Flight Experiment

SSEP Mission 5 to ISS: Mini-Lab Operation


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SSEP Kansas City Mission 5 Teams Are in The Experiment Design and Proposal Writing Phase!!!

A heartfelt welcome to America's Space Program. This is real research. This is real exploration. This is real spaceflight. Your students, teacher, and community need to know that. And we are doing this together to inspire and engage the next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Let's engage nearly 7,000 students in Mission 5 to the International Space Station.

We are now at an estimated T-minus 216 days to the launch of Mission 5's Charlie Brown payload which will contain one of our student teams flight experiment aboard either the Orbital Sciences Cygnus vehicle launching from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Virginia, or aboard the SpaceX Dragon vehicle launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The adventure has begun.

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Congratulations to St. Peter's Parish Team Defying Gravity! 

     Your experiment proposal, "Oxidation in Space",

     has been selected as the SSEP KC experiment

     that will be flown to the International Space Station.




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The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

SSEP Mission 5 to the International Space Station—America's Newest National Lab

At a time when it should be the birthright of all students to an education
that allows them to successfully enter the job markets of the 21st century…

At a time when America must inspire its next generation of scientists and engineers if
we as a nation are to compete in the technology markets of the 21st century…


The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. It is a national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that gives typically 300+ students across a community the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit, first aboard the final flights of the Space Shuttle, and then on the International Space Station—America's newest National Laboratory.


Through SSEP our schools are provided an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber, and historic STEM education program tailored to our community's strategic needs in STEM education.

Program Overview:

Each school in SSEP will conduct a local Flight Experiment Design Competition, with their student teams vying to fly an experiment in low Earth orbit in a real research mini-laboratory reserved just for our community. Mirroring how professional research is done, student teams across our community submit formal research proposals, which then go through a 2-step proposal review process to select the single flight experiment for the community. Our design competition–from program start, to experiment design, to submission of proposals by our student teams–runs 9 weeks. Students can design experiments in diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. Content resources for teachers and students support foundational instruction on science in microgravity and experimental design. A suite of SSEP program elements–the Community Program–leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education.

Important note: Implementing SSEP for an appropriate-sized student audience is straightforward, and we can show you how. But SSEP is not designed for an individual class or a small number of students in a community.

Heritage: The SSEP paradigm derives from the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education's Core Beliefs, its embraced Learning Community Model for science education, its heritage of delivering community-wide programming, and its heritage of SSEP operations to date.

Why Are We Participating: The program perfectly fit ourPre-College Initiative (the core focus for SSEP) in the U.S., by providing a stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunity to our upper elementary school students

Pedagogy: When designing SSEP, we had our pedagogical approach to STEM education in mind. SSEP empowers the student as scientist, and within the real-world context of science that is far more than exploration through inquiry. SSEP allows student teams to—

  • design an experiment like professional scientists, with real constraints imposed by the experimental apparatus, current knowledge, and the environment in which the experiment will be conducted
  • propose for a real flight opportunity like professional scientists, bringing critical written communications skills to bear
  • experience a real 2-step science proposal review process
  • have their own science conference, a venue where they are immersed in their community of researchers, and in which they can communicate their thoughts, ideas, and experimental results to their peers.

TO THE TEACHER: The Essential Question for Design of an Experiment

What phenomenon associated with a physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with

gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?

You are invited to explore the SSEP experiments that have already flown.

A Bold New Approach to STEM Education: 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. SSEP is not a NASA program. SSEP uses a commercial payload of real research mini-labs. The SSEP is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. 

Conclusion: Science is more than a book of knowledge. Science is a way of thinking and interacting with the natural world. And science is also a complex social landscape filled with challenges, and the need for multi-faceted and successful communication with ones peers. SSEP is about introducing real science to our next generation of scientists and engineers.

We are proud of the fact that our students will join hundreds of classrooms in exploring the opportunity to truly slip on the shoes of the researcher and design and propose experiments just like professional scientists and engineers—experiments designed to the spaceflight hardware to be utilized and constrained by launch and recovery requirements. One cannot imagine an education program with greater potential to engage students in the process of scientific inquiry, and get them thinking about a career across all science and technology disciplines.

(5/15/13) NEW Flight Opportunity
Announcing SSEP Mission 5 to the International Space Station (ISS)

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education announces the seventh SSEP flight opportunity – SSEP Mission 5 to the International Space Station (ISS). Each participating community will be provided all launch services to fly a real microgravity research mini-laboratory on ISS, which contains a single experiment selected from a real research competition engaging typically 300+ students across the community.    

Mission 5 to ISS provides for an experiment design competition Fall 2013, and a ferry flight of the selected flight experiment to ISS in Spring 2014. SSEP Mission 5 to ISS is currently the only SSEP flight opportunity available.

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 9 to November 11, 2013. 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; facilitation of microgravity experiment design across all student teams
  • each team writing a formal 5-page grade level appropriate flight experiment proposal

Key Milestones:

  • Experiment Design and Proposal Writing (9 weeks): September 9 – November 11, 2013
  • Flight Experiment Proposals due to your lead institution: November 11, 2013
  • Local Step 1 Review Board selects 3 finalist proposals, submits to NCESSE: November 25, 2013
  • National Step 2 Review Board selects your flight experiment: December 12, 2013
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload to ISS, estimated launch date: Spring 2014
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload back to Earth: expectation is Launch + 6 weeks
  • SSEP National Conference for students: early July 2014, most likely held at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the site of the 2011 to 2013 Conferences

SSEP is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc., are National Partners on SSEP.