Satellites operated by students at SOI are either in extended mode operations or pre-launch preparation. Extended mode missions have already met their primary objectives by NASA's terms, but are still healthy and capable of producing valuable scientific data. By allowing students to utilize “expired” satellites as learning tools, NASA saves millions of dollars by keeping projects going longer than anticipated, while training the next generation of flight controllers and system engineers.
Pre-launch missions allow NASA to test and train on mission operations systems in the SOI in parallel with their NASA center work as well as bringing SOI students in as interns during the early stages of a mission, providing on-site training for the next generation of mission controllers.
SOI provides for better and longer operational life for these satellites as well as continuity of operations, benefiting all parties involved. Students receive experience directly applicable to their academic training and future careers. To date, SOI has been part of six satellite projects during its lifespan.