DSC 3887 smallThere are seven academic departments in the SSP. The number of participants in each department is generally limited to 20 to 25 participants, depending upon the type of activities and  specialized equipment and software availabilty for each. Departmental activities enable a more in-depth and focused experience be it a debate or discussion, advanced lecture, or hands-on activity.
At the beginning of the program each student chooses one of the following SSP departments, depending upon his or her personal interests.

- Space Applications Department
- Space Engineering Department
- Human Performance in Space Department
- Space Humanities Department
- Space Management & Business Department
- Space Policy, Economics & Law Department
- Space Sciences Department

Department activities may include:

- A seminar and discussion that go into greater depth following a core lecture
- Visiting a space-related facility in the area
- Simulating an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or space walk in neutral buoyancy
- Building and operating very low or very high frequency radio receivers
- Remote sensing projects using local imagery and involving ground truthing
- Examining barriers to technology transfer
- Presentations by students on their own work or interests
- Building and launching ameteur rockets
- Hands-on experience with data systems or experimental hardware
- Debates on space exploration's impact on society
- Building and flying an experiment on a sounding rocket

This component of the curriculum provides deeper examination of some of the topics covered in the Core Lectures. Groups are smaller allowing for a greater exchange of knowledge and ideas, as well as hands-on activities. Departmental activity slots are an important opportunity for students to interact with faculty members, lecturers and teaching associates and to build their professional network. They also provide students with the opportunity to observe cultural differences that influence personal interactions in a group setting and to adapt and develop presentation and negotiation skills that account for this cultural diversity.

Professional Visits

Departments may go on professional visits to space-related institutes and organizations, however, specific activities vary based on availability of local resources.

Individual or Small Team Assignments

Projects are given by the Department Chair person during personal interviews at the beginning of the SSP, and vary according to department evaluation requirements. Projects are done individually or in small groups or two to four students, and involve gathering data and interpreting results. Individuals/Groups then do either an oral presentation, a professional paper or an experiment construction. Choosing a Department

During the second week of the SSP, students choose one of seven departments they would like to join. (see list above)

Students remain in their chosen department over the course of the entire SSP, and attend all of the activity slots and the professional visits for that department.
It is important to take several factors into consideration when choosing a department.
Students may choose a department relevant to their academic or professional background OR a field which they wish to learn more about.

There are several advantages of choosing a department in which the student already has a background. For instance, there will be many opportunities to meet experts during the departmental activities over the course of the summer, and these contacts might be helpful later in advancing the student’s chosen career. In addition, if a department is primarily composed of people who already have significant expertise in the subject, they will be able to delve more deeply into the subject matter.

There are also advantages to branching out and joining a department where a student may not have an extensive background. Students selecting this option will have the opportunity to gain new competencies and broaden their horizons, into the area they would like their career or studies to move. Selecting this option fosters an interdisciplinary atmosphere—at the heart of ISU's philosophy. Some students may feel more comfortable remaining in the subject area in which they have the most knowledge. Particularly this may be the case for students who are non-native English speakers. Whatever the case may be, all that is required of SSP students is a keen interest to learn more about the department's subject. Students should therefore read the department and personnel descriptions before making their choice, in order to select what best suits their needs and interests.