1601 Cottman Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19111 (215) 728-5018

Project SPARC

The Space Research Center (SPARC) is an after school activity of the Magnet School and NEHS. The Space Research Center was built and Project SPARC began in the early 1960s.  The SPARC demonstration facilities include a 21 foot mock-up of a Shuttle Orbiter. an Apollo training capsule provided by NASA, eight mission control consoles, a graphics and visualization training center and a robotics laboratory.The mission of SPARC is to promote the development of leaders dedicated to the extension of mankind’s grasp beyond that of planet Earth by educating students with interest in the medical fields, computer sciences, electronics, engineering, flight management, and robotics.


Northeast High gained some notoriety with their SPARC program originated in 1962 by Mr. Robert A. G. Montgomery, Jr. Originally called the Project SPAce Research Capsule, SPARC was recognized by the Government as the first program of its kind ever attempted. Northeast High students united designed and built a three-man space capsule mock-up to test the student “astronauts ability to handle the space environment. Interest in Project SPARC was stimulated in industry and the School District Administration. With the help of a grant from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Heart Association, the program purchased electronic equipment and began to study in flight control instrumentation. Project SPARC was so highly recognized for its work that, during the summer of 1963, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invited 18 SPARC students to tour the Marshall Space Flight Center, Manned Spacecraft Center, Cape Canaveral, and the Goddard Space Flight Center.

By the end of 1963, the students had designed a simulated capsule and control area, and construction began on a wing of the stage at Northeast High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Home and School Association and the Alumni Association made many contributions to aid SPARC. In early May 1964, the first capsule test took place. The chamber was constructed as a closed oxygen-replenishment system.

SPARC has attempted several simulations in a few different simulators to the moon, orbits around the earth, and to Mars. Project SPARC membership in 2010 included almost two hundred students classified as full-time members. These students have regular responsibilities in the areas of their specialties and operate all research activities.


The SPARC Project was updated in the 2000s to pursue the goals of President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration. Project SPARC was realigned to simulate the NASA Constellation program and its mission to return to the moon. In 2009 Project SPARC flew its first Constellation mission, sending six students to the moon and establishing a two-module lunar habitat. SPARC facilities include a 21′ Shuttle Orbiter mockup built by the students, the actual Apollo training capsule from NASA, an eight station mission control center, a movie and animation learning center and electronics and robotics laboratories. Students can utilize a new facility which incorporates computer and electronic action scripts, video presentations and simulations. Like the SPARC project in the 1960s, they are able to simulate the experience of operating a spaceborne mission. Project SPARC’s honorary Flight Director is Philadelphia astronaut Chris Ferguson, who has visited the facility and held video teleconferences with the SPARC students from the Houston pace Center