On Feb. 19, a SpaceX mission launched for the International Space Station with a payload containing an experiment constructed by students from Churchill High School. The experiment is one of many, each designed by students as a part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). The SSEP is a program created and run by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), itself a project of the Tides organization. The NCESSE is focused on encouraging public interest in STEM fields through earth and space programs.
The SSEP allows members of participating communities, usually students, to submit proposals for experiments to be performed on the ISS. The ISS is unique as a laboratory due to its microgravity environment produced by the permanently free-falling nature of its orbit. The experiment proposals are designed to explore how certain phenomena function in microgravity.
Due to constraints on cargo mass, only one experiment from each community is accepted. Churchill High School and the Arts & Technology Academy students sent in 152 proposals. The selected experiment was “SLIPS in microgravity,” created by freshmen Cabala Ray Newell, Garrett Price, and Kobe Skidmore from Churchill High School. The experiment will test whether SLIPS, an extremely slippery coating, functions in microgravity. SLIPS (short for Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface) is a material inspired by pitcher plants, consisting of a fluid film inside a layer of teflon that repels both water and oils.
The experiment was launched on a SpaceX Dragon alongside 20 other experiments, one from each participating community. It reached the ISS without incident and will have its payload unloaded before being reloaded with cargo and returning to Earth on March 21.