Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Mission Patch 2

One of two flight patches from Downingtown, PA.  Click to Zoom

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, are proud and honored to present the 15 Mission Patches representing the communities participating in SSEP Mission 4 to ISS.

The Mission Patches were transported to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the SSEP Orion payload of Mission 4 experiments that launched on January 9, 2014, on the historic flight of Orbital Sciences 1 (Orb-1) – the first operational flight of the Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus berthed with ISS on January 12, 2014. The Orion experiments payload, with the 11 Mission 4 flight experiments and 15 Mission 4 Patches, is scheduled to return to Earth aboard Soyuz 36S on March 10, 2014.

Across the Mission 4 to ISS communities, 13,650 students were given the opportunity to participate in mission patch design competitions at the local level, and there were 2,583 patch designs submitted. Judges within the communities selected the 15 flight patches. Mission Patch art and design competitions were conducted in 9 of the 11 communities participating in Mission 4 to ISS.

Background on the Intent of the SSEP Mission Patches

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is about inspiring America’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and engaging entire communities in the process. It is a national program delivered at the local level, with student teams across a community designing and proposing real experiments to fly in orbit as the core activity. But community-wide engagement, and cross-disciplinary learning are also cornerstone objectives in the context of the embraced Learning Community Model for STEM education.

North Charleston, South Carolina, Mission Patch

The flight patch from North Charleston, SC, designed by 10th grader Charles Cook. Click to Zoom

In this spirit, and for each flight opportunity, SSEP flies a Mission Patch — a paper 4-inch x 4-inch square emblem designed by the students in each participating community to capture their experience. The Mission Patch flies along with the community’s flight experiment, and is returned after the flight with a Certification of Flight in Space. The idea is to embrace the NASA heritage of patches designed for spaceflight missions that goes back to the early days of the space program.

While we can only fly paper patches, many communities turn their designs into cloth patches and lapel pins, worn by students, teachers and family members, which fosters a shared community experience.The Mission Patch element of SSEP is a way to extend ownership in SSEP to the greater community. The returned flight patch is often prominently displayed with the Certification of Flight, as testimony to the community’s engagement in real spaceflight and real research on the high frontier.

Each Mission Patch is the result of a design competition held in the community, with the requirement that hundrends of the community’s students take part in the competition. While participation should be open to at least the students participating in the SSEP experiment design competition (which is limited to grades 5-12), we encourage each community to broaden participation by opening the design competition to wider student involvement across grades K-12, and to classes beyond STEM disciplines. A community proposing wider involvement is given the opportunity to fly two patches by engaging a secondary audience in a second competition.

The Mission Patch element of SSEP allows students to express through art and design their community’s engagement in the program, and to artistically capture characteristics of real research and exploration – problem solving, team work, creativity, and pushing into the unknown. In fact, because of the natural fit of the Mission Patch element, SSEP is really a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) initiative.

You are invited to see all 15 Mission 4 to ISS flight Mission Patches, and read about the local competitions in the communities–

Jump to the Mission Patches on Mission 4 to the International Space Station page

You are also invited to read more about the Mission 4 to ISS Patch Competition.


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 NanoRacks LLC, 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.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc., are National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

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