World Science Fair


The World Space Science Fair (WSSF) will be a global competition that will allow high school students from around the world an opportunity for flight on the International Space Station.  This will be an open competition, and students from all over the world will be eligible.


The WSSF will be funded and administered by the Foundation for International Space Education.  FISE will be responsible for creating the source material to be sent out to the schools and judging the entrants to select the winning experiment.  Flight services for the experiments will be provided by NanoRacks, a division of XO marketing.  NanoRacks has a history of flying successful student experiments onboard the ISS, and provides a relatively low cost opportunity to conduct the flight.  NanoRacks also has an education coordinator, who will be available to assist in this program.

Space Agencies from around the world, including, but not limited to, NASA, ESA, JAXA, CSA, RSA, and ISRO will be welcome to participate in the program on a support basis, on the understanding that FISE will have the ultimate decision on the program objectives.

NASA will provide a safety review of the selected cube, verifying that the selected experiments will not jeopardize the safety of the crew or the ISS mission.

Flight Hardware

NanoRacks provides several options for the WSSF.  The first is a 1.5 U cubelab, with four Mini-Lab sub-chambers that would provide a separate experiment space for each of the chosen winners.  Each minilab tube is plugged into the main controller card via a USB port.  Data will be collected and stored on the controller card of the module itself, but data output files will be obtained on a regular basis by the NanoRacks Operations Control Center, and transferred to the schools. The second option is the use of a NanoRacks Mixing Tube experiment.  Mixture tubes are made from non-reactive, clear, silicon plastic that can be subdivided into up to three subchambers for mixing while on orbit.  NanoRacks has flown several batches of student experiments utilizing mixture tubes in the past for other educational organizations, but has not had the international reach that FISE would provide.

Program Progress

FISE and NanoRacks will make the announcement of the program several months prior to initiation of the program.  Global outreach is crucial for this program to gain footing on the necessary scale.  The goal is to get as many entries as possible from as many nations as possible.  Schools and individual students will be able to apply through the FISE website.  Due to the costs of running the program, payment will be required in advance of the competition.

At a selected date prior to the start of the program, NanoRacks will mail each entrant a kit that will include either the mixture tube assemblies, or two minilab tubes (one for flight, one for ground).  The kits will also include documentation on how to build the experiment, and information on program participation requirements.  It would be highly desirable for the students to perform a “ground run” of their experiment, to demonstrate its ability to run properly.  These results should be included in their entry packet.  A ground failure would not necessarily eliminate an experiment from selection for flight, as NanoRacks and FISE might be able to help solve any issues that were encountered during the ground run.

The students must turn in their experiment data by the proscribed date.  The information will include a detailed description of the experiment and its objectives, a description and diagram of the experiment setup, results from the ground experiment, and a hypothesis of how the experiment will work differently in microgravity.

The winning experiment will be selected by a committee appointed by the FISE Board of Directors.  Criteria for selecting will include, but are not limited to:

  • Originality of the experiment concept
  • Probability of getting different results in microgravity
  • Ease of experiment operation
  • Success of ground based experiment

The winning entries will be notified, and will ship their flight model to the NanoRacks facility for launch processing.

During flight,  NanoRacks will obtain data files directly from the module itself, and send the data to FISE and directly to the winning participants on a bi-weekly basis.  The experiment will be scheduled to run for one month.

The experiment module will be returned to earth either on a Soyuz or a SpaceX vehicle.  They will be sent directly to the NanoRacks facility from the landing site.  From there, they will be sent directly back to the winning participants.


This opportunity exists due to the low cost opportunity provided by NanoRacks.  The price provided by NanoRacks to FISE is USD $40,000 for the minilab cube chamber, or $8000 per mixture tube. Cost of the manufacturing and shipping of the experiment kits will run upwards of USD $10000, making a minilab module cost a total of USD $50,000 for the entire project.

This cost can be covered in part by entry fees.  Charging each entry $200 would provide an opportunity for participation at a cost that is reasonable for most of the world.  FISE would need 250 entries to cover their costs.  Any additional funds generated beyond those needed to cover the cost of the program will be used to aid in funding of future WSSF programs, and provide financial aid to entries from economically distressed areas.

Direct Flight Option

Any participant that was not a selected winner of the WSSF may choose to fly their experiment to the ISS at a cost of USD $10,000.  Experiment processing, data collection, and experiment return will be handled in the exact same manner as they would be for the WSSF winners.

Proposed Schedule
August 2013WSSF Official Program Announcement/Beginning of entry registration
October 2013First Distribution of Experiment Kits – Schools begin ground testing
March 2014Close of entry registration
April 2014Experiment proposals due
May 2014Selection of winning entries
June 2014Payload Safety review/Shipping of winning entries to NanoRacks
August 2014Launch of WSSF module
August – October 2014On-orbit operation of winning experiments
October-November 2014Return of WSSF module