JSC Space Settlement Design Competition, 2012

Welcome to SSDC

The purpose of this web site is to communicate information concerning the March 16-18, 2012, Space Settlement Design Competition to be conducted at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Space Settlement Design Competition is an engineering industry simulation. The competition conducted at Johnson Space Center began in 1999, but the idea for SSDC goes back to 1984. In SSDC, students form and operate an engineering company. This company is organized according to a system similar to that of a real company. Every participant has a significant role to fulfill. The competition is designed to provide participants with experiences similar to those encountered by real engineers developing ideas related to a request for proposal from a potential customer.

A Little History

In 1999, Norm Chaffee, a retired NASA engineer working part-time in the NASA-JSC Education Office, was tasked with running the first Johnson Space Center SSDC. It was conducted in February of 1999 with approximately 160 students from Houston-area schools. In the Fall of 1999, Mr. Chaffee explained the program to Jim Christensen from Northwest AEA in Iowa. Norm and Jim negotiated a deal to allow eight Iowa students to participate along with the 160+ Texans at the 2000 competition. From 2000 to 2003, small numbers of Iowa students flew to Houston and participated with the Texans. In 2004, NASA conducted two competitions at the request of Jim Christensen. In response to a question from the JSC Education chief, Jim had asked for the opportunity to have 160 students, 80 in each of two competitions, participate in 2004. NASA agreed and in 2004 and 2005, 320+ students participated. These two years also marked the first time the Iowa students traveled to Houston on buses. In response to NASA education budget cuts, Northwest Area Education Agency took over the costs of managing the competition in 2006. The competition format returned to only one competition per year and the number of students involved were reduced back to approximately 170. The competition has continued in this format in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. 2012 will mark the 16th Space Settlement Design Competition conducted at Johnson Space Center and the 11th bus trip from Iowa to Houston.

A Model of Cooperation with NASA

One of the great strengths of the program is the partnership with NASA-Johnson Space Center. JSC allows us use of their Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility as a venue for the competition. This location is truly one of the most exciting locations for a competition of this sort. Our students are in the midst of full-sized mock-ups of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. This location helps students make a powerful connection from who they are to what they can become. 

Unlike other programs that have been conducted with students in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility, SSDC has not had an instance of problems with students using the facilities. The sponsors credit both the high level of maturity and intense level of participation on behalf of the student/participants along with the very high level of supervision by the chaperones for the trip.