EP-165 Spacelab

two drawings illustrating Spacelab processing

"Spacelab represents a major investment on the order of one billion dollars from our European friends. But its completion marks something equally important: The commitment of a dogged, dedicated, and talented team drawn from ESA Governments, universities, and industries who stuck with it for a decade and saw the project through. We are proud of your perseverance and congratulate you on your success.

"We are looking forward to the launch....and, looking beyond that launch, let us endeavor to continue to work together in the same spirit of cooperation and mutual support that brought us together today."

James M. Beggs, NASA Administrator, at the ceremony for Spacelab's arrival from Europe at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, February 5, 1982.


CHAPTER ONE: What is Spacelab?


[3] It is one hour after the familiar flame and thunder of liftoff The puffs of exhaust and vapor trails have long since dissipated at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The United States Space Shuttle's Orbiter now floats serenely in weightlessness on the opposite side of the Earth, 250 kilometers (155 miles) above the Pacific Ocean.

The crew of six-the commander, pilot, two mission specialists and two non-career astronauts called payload specialists-begin preparations for the scientific work assigned to them on this nine-day flight.

At a console facing the rear wall of the Orbiter's upper crew compartment-the aft flight deck-a mission specialist flips switch R-13, marked "Payload Bay Doors," into the on position. This sets off a 190-second computer-controlled sequence of latch retractions. The huge clamshell doors extending the full length of the bus-size cargo bay swing wide open, revealing its contents.

As crew members look through the two aft flight-deck windows into the cargo bay, they see a strange collection of structures as if taken from a frame of a fantasy film.

Resembling a Z-shaped tube, an aluminum tunnel one meter (3.3 feet) in diameter runs from the back wall of the lower crew compartment (mid deck) toward the middle of the cargo bay.

The tunnel connects with the first of two joined cylinders, segments jointly called the module, near the cargo bay's center. Behind the module, not visible to the crew from their windows, rests a U-shaped form, called a pallet, which like the module fits snugly into the 18-by-4.6-meter (60-by-15-foot) cargo bay. Mounted on the pallet are antennas, telescopes, and other sensors.

This odd-appearing assemblage is one configuration of Spacelab, the new $1-billion European-built, NASA-operated spaceborne science laboratory.

Within an hour or two, one of the two payload specialists and one of the mission specialists float from the mid deck through the tunnel into the module.. They begin operating some of the many research instruments installed there. From controls inside the forwards segment of the module they operate instruments mounted on the U-shaped pallet. Spacelab has now come alive and is at work!


space shuttle launch


Project Involves Many Nations

Ten years in the making, the most versatile research facility ever sent into space is now in [4] action. For the 10 European nations that designed, constructed, and financed Spacelab jointly through the European Space Agency (ESA) and for NASA, which designed, constructed, and financed the Spacelab ground facilities and manages the Spacelab flights, this is the culmination of history's largest and most comprehensive multinational space project.

During the next several days the payload specialists and mission specialists will use instruments inside Spacelab to carry out a variety of scientific and technological investigations. Spacelab is expected to be a frequent passenger inside the Shuttle's cargo bay in the years ahead, through the remainder of the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Whenever Spacelab is aboard, it is an integral part of the Orbiter, firmly attached inside its body.

Some Spacelab flights will be "dedicated missions" on which the Orbiter cargo bay is completely devoted to Spacelab-no other loads are carried. Other flights will be ''mixed cargo missions" in which Spacelab occupies only part of the cargo bay, sharing it with other cargo, such as satellites to be launched from the Orbiter during the flight. Some Spacelab flights will be devoted to one scientific discipline only and will be called "discipline missions." The Spacelab system lends itself to orbital research in virtually all scientific specialties and technological fields. Flights carrying experiments of more than one scientific discipline are called "multidiscipline missions."

On a discipline mission devoted to astronomy and space physics, payload specialists trained in this science team with mission specialists to operate instruments installed on a pallet. They examine space phenomena, such as the behavior of electrified gases, called plasmas, ejected by the Sun and now trapped above the Earth. On a mission devoted to Earth sciences, the commander and pilot maneuver the Orbiter into an inverted position-so that, as seen from the Earth, it is flying upside down. The payload and mission specialists are thus positioned to use their Spacelab instruments to examine Earth's atmosphere, land, and oceans. On missions dedicated to life sciences, physicians and biologists observe the impact of prolonged weightlessness on the crew and on plants and microbes. On missions dedicated to materials technology, specialists in alloys, crystals, ceramics, glasses, and pharmaceutical substances investigate processes observable only in weightlessness.


Early Benefits Possible

Some Spacelab experiments-particularly those in materials and pharmaceutical processing-hold high promise of early benefits. Others, like the astronomical observations and plasma investigations, are of immediate interest mainly to scientific specialists. All Spacelab work is meant to enrich the human storehouse of knowledge. Spacelab's only assignment is to help increase our understanding of natural laws and to put this knowledge to work for human progress and betterment.

Spacelab is not a spacecraft but rather a laboratory for use in space. More precisely, Spacelab is a set of components which can be arranged in different combinations-or "configurations"-to form a laboratory and observatory tailor-made to the needs of each flight's research objectives. In all its....


The pallet for SL-1. fully loaded with instruments, undergoes tests before its installation in the Orbiter's cargo bay.

The pallet for SL-1. fully loaded with instruments, undergoes tests before its installation in the Orbiter's cargo bay.


[5] ....configurations Spacelab remains solidly anchored to its host and carrier, the Orbiter, for the duration of the mission.

Spacelab makes possible the transfer of new sophisticated apparatus and high-technology laboratory instruments into Earth orbit. In achieving this feat engineers have come up with many imaginative solutions to the problems of operating in space.

Names used in describing Spacelab components and the equipment housed in them tend to be much less glamorous than the items themselves. The cylindrical segments-truly ingenious engineering feats-are prosaically dubbed habitable modules.


Module and pallet are readied for SL-1.

Module and pallet are readied for SL-1.


Each segment is 2.7 meters (9 feet) long and 4 meters ( 13 feet) in diameter. They are made of aluminum allows covered with a thick blanket of multilayered insulation.

The forward segment, which contains controls and monitoring equipment in addition to research instruments, is called the core segment. The aft segment, carrying only research instruments, is called the experiment module. When joined, these two cylinders are simply called the long module. Alone, the core segment is also called the short module.


Shirt-Sleeve Conditions Provided

In the long-module configuration the interior of the combined segments becomes a room much like the inside of the passenger cabin of a large jet. Three mission and payload specialists can work there simultaneously, surrounded by research and control apparatus in an almost Earthlike environment. They breathe normal air, wear conventional clothes, and set the temperature and humidity to their own liking. Except for weightlessness, they can do their research almost as if they were in any modern high-technology laboratory in their campus, industrial, or government research centers on Earth.

The far ends of the long module are closed with funnel-shaped "end cones." The tip-to-tip distance between end cones is 7 meters (23 feet).

The U-shaped pallet in the rear of the cargo bay serves as a base for research equipment needing a more open view than is feasible from the module, or requiring direct exposure to the radiations and vacuum of outer space.

A pallet weighs 1,200 kilograms (2,650 pounds), is 4 meters ( 13 feet) wide and 3 meters ( 10 feet) long, and can support a ton of instruments for each meter of its length- about 3 tons altogether if evenly loaded. With its instruments, the pallet becomes a scientific observatory--for studies in astronomy, space physics, and Earth sciences.

Some pallet-mounted instruments are self contained and automated and require no human intervention during flight. Others need to be turtled on and off, guided, or adjusted-from controls inside the core module, from the aft flight deck, or remotely from the ground by radio command.

Eventually, when all components for two complete Spacelab sets are delivered from Europe, NASA will have 2 core modules, 2 experiment modules, 10 identical pallets, and various items of auxiliary hardware.


Many Configurations Possible

Which of these components are used on a flight depends on the research objectives and equipment needs of the mission.

Deciding on the mission configuration and which components to use resembles the problem of a Broadway theatrical producer who must select, together with his director and other specialists, the right combinations of lights, microphones, and scenery to [6] achieve desired results through three or more acts of a stage play.

When a Spacelab mission requires it, as many as two pallets can be installed in the Orbiter's cargo bay behind the long module.

If a mission's needs can be satisfied with only one segment of the module, the core segment would be used. As many as three pallets can be installed behind it.

Or if no habitable module is needed on a mission, any number of pallets up to five can be made to fit, one behind the other, in the Orbiter's cargo bay. Up to three adjacent pallets can be rigidly attached to each other to form a "pallet train"-for equipment too large or too heavy to fit on one or two pallets. When no modules are flown, pallet mounted instruments are controlled from the Orbiter's aft flight deck or remotely from the ground. Present plans call for the use of six possible component configurations.

The Orbiter-Spacelab combination can provide electric power, thermal control and also data collection, recording, processing, storage and transmission as each instrument may require.

Spacelab takes advantage of new possibilities to widen in-orbit research opened by the Space Shuttle that attained operational status in 1982. Spacelab pushes in-orbit research into broader dimensions.

International Partnership-Spacelab's multinational origin introduces an unprecedented international flavor into space research. Never before have so many nations participated in any activity aimed exclusively at improvement of space investigations. The 10 European nations that jointly developed and paid for Spacelab delivered the modular laboratory to the United States for use by NASA as an integral part of the Shuttle. NASA, which developed and operates the Shuttle and all the Spacelab ground and training facilities, has management responsibilities for all Spacelab flights. Nations or institutions may rent all or part of Spacelab for one or...


Instrument-laden pallet inside cargo bay gets ready for next missio

Instrument-laden pallet inside cargo bay gets ready for next mission.


Instrument-laden pallet inside cargo bay gets ready for next missio



Spacelab engineering model with U-shaped pallets and long module


Spacelab modules and pallets can fly in a variety of combinations.


Spacelab engineering model with U-shaped pallets and long module.

Spacelab modules and pallets can fly in a variety of combinations.


[8] ....more flights by paying NASA for the costs of the launch and operation of the mission. These users can then have Spacelab outfitted with their own experiments and operated in accordance with their needs. Two nations- West Germany and Japan-are already planning to rent Spacelab under this reimbursable arrangement. In cooperative missions no money changes hands, but users share research results. This international aspect of Spacelab operations is intended to endure. As planned from the beginning by the contributing European nations and NASA, Spacelab will be used for research by experimenters from the United States, Europe, and other countries throughout its service life .

Versatility-The building block approach, or modular concept, of Spacelab-the option to employ facilities selectively in a wide variety of configurations-introduces a flexibility never before available to researchers for in orbit experimentation. Severe limitations in size, weight, power consumption, and data handling traditionally imposed on space experiments are being liberalized by the Shuttle-Spacelab combination with its capacity to accommodate a very wide range of research needs..

Returnability and Reusability-Like its carrier ship, the Orbiter, Spacelab is returnable from space and reusable. So are the research instruments and specimens aboard. All components of Spacelab-the module and pallets and everything associated with them-are returned to Earth.

After the Orbiter's landing, Spacelab research instruments and equipment and all biological and materials samples are available for study and analysis by each experiment's investigators. All equipment and instruments can be sent back into space on subsequent flights if desired. Considerable savings are achieved by avoiding the need to replace one-time-use equipment, as was necessary earlier. These and other economies make experiments affordable that were formerly prohibitevely expensive

Scientists in Space-Non-career astronaut scientists, after as little as 100 hours of special training in the intricacies of living in orbit, can travel into space aboard the Shuttle and conduct research using Spacelab's made-to-order research facilities. The skills, knowledge, and judgment of scientific and technological specialists who have not needed to spend several years in astronaut training become available directly for in-orbit investigations in a wide variety of scientific disciplines and technological specialties.

As now foreseen, the frequency of Shuttle flights (2 in 1981, 3 in 1982, and 4 planned for 1983) will gradually increase to perhaps as many as 24 each year-an average of 2 each month in the late 1980s and in the 1990s. One or two flights each year are expected to be "dedicated" Spacelab flights, which means that cargo bay space and crew time will be devoted almost entirely to the operation of Spacelab and its experiments. (These figures could change with shifts in future budget allocations, national priorities, or investigators' demands for Shuttle and Spacelab facilities.)

Many other flights with the new Space Transportation System (STS)-better known as Space Shuttle-will carry a Spacelab pallet or one or more other Spacelab components.


Two Pallets Flight-Tested

Indeed, the Shuttle already has carried two test pallets into orbit-one late in 1981, and the other in 1982. These pallets, essentially identical to the flight models built for future missions, were sent by the European Space Agency to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Two pallets were on board during the second and third Shuttle test flights- STS-2, November 12 to 14, 1981, and STS-3, March 22 to 30, 1982. These were the first hi-orbit tests of any major Spacelab elements, also the first times the Shuttle took any scientific research equipment with it into orbit other than for measuring its own flight performance. Remarkably successful research results were obtained with pallet-mounted instruments on STS-2 and -3. The pallets, with their relatively simple electrical power, cooling, and command and control functions proved to be practical and useful.

Five Earth-looking research instruments weighing a total of a ton were mounted on the test pallet aboard STS-2. They were part of a pathfinder research packet called OSTA-1, an acronym denoting that this was an experiment series assembled by NASA's former...



SL-2 will be a multidiscipline mission with 13 instruments on three pallets and a special support structure.



SL-2 will be a multidiscipline mission with 13 instruments on three pallets and a special support structure.


Pallet carrying OSTA-1 experiments is visible with other equipment in cargo bay in this photograph taken in orbit by STS-2 crew through flight deck's aft window in November 1982.

Pallet carrying OSTA-1 experiments is visible with other equipment in cargo bay in this photograph taken in orbit by STS-2 crew through flight deck's aft window in November 1982.


Crammed with instruments, this pallet is prepared for flight aboard STS-4 in 1982 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The pallet was aboard the fourth mission of the Orbiter Columbia; Its instruments carried out experiments in astronomy and space plasma physics.

Crammed with instruments, this pallet is prepared for flight aboard STS-4 in 1982 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.


....Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications (OSTA). These experiments, typical of the kinds of apparatus pallets are likely to support on future flights, were prototypes designed mainly to calibrate new spaceborne instruments and to determine the effectiveness of new techniques for Earth research from orbital altitudes.

OSTA-1 instruments verified that it is possible with the larger and more powerful instruments mountable on the pallets to locate and identify minerals on Earth, sniff out concentrations of carbon monoxide in the lower atmosphere, survey ocean algae concentrations with great accuracy, use radar for Earth surface and sub-surface mapping and program Earth observation instruments so that they turn themselves on and off automatically as desired, whenever they fly above bare land, vegetation, water, snow, or clouds. This last instrument, called FILE (Feature Identification and Location Experiment), showed that such "smart" sensors can be automated to make their observations only above certain kinds of objects-eliminating unnecessary recording, transmission, storing, and sorting of vast quantities of data unneeded for specific investigations.


Research Introduced Early

The use of spacecraft for scientific research follows a tradition that dates back to the very beginning of the United States space program and has continued without interruption since. The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, launched on January 31, 1958, was outfitted with three small research instruments which made the first major scientific discovery in space.

At that time, more than 25 years ago, the United States was eager to place a satellite into orbit as soon as possible to prove that U.S. technology was not trailing that of the Soviet Union. Nearly four months earlier, on October 4, 1957, the Soviets placed history's first man-made satellite, Sputnik I, in orbit. Despite this urgency, U.S. space planners insisted that their satellite serve a purpose beyond merely signaling its presence in orbit. Thus Explorer 1, despite its relatively small size-15.2 centimeters (6 inches) in diameter and 203 centimeters (80 inches) long-and its light weight-14 kilograms-carried a Geiger counter and two micrometeoroid detectors. These proved sufficient to locate radiation belts whose existence until then had only been theorized.


[10] New Discovery Named

These phenomena surrounding Earth were promptly named Van Allen radiation belts after tile University of Iowa physicist, Dr. James A. Van Allen, who had designed the experiment and analyzed its results.

Explorer 1 was rapidly succeeded by increasingly larger, heavier, equipment crammed satellites with ever more advanced instruments for astronomy, physics, and Earth survey research.

With the beginning of manned space flight in 1961, science in space took on new meaning. Instead of relying solely On automated, remotely controlled instruments, people could now make their own observations in space and adjust instruments directly. However, early manned spacecraft were small. Essential flight equipment left little room for scientific research instruments. This severely restrained early space science, but in their eagerness to explore the newly accessible regions of space, scientists found ways to do some research while fulfilling astronauts' needs.

In 1961 astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil I. Grissom, the first Americans in space in suborbital flights, and in 1962 John H. Glenn, the first American in orbit, wore sensors on their chests through which physicians on the ground could instantaneously monitor their heartbeats, breathing rates, and other physical parameters during acceleration at launch, weightlessness in orbit, and deceleration during reentry in their Mercury spacecraft.

The two-man Gemini spacecraft completed 10 successful orbital flights within a 20 month period in 1965 and 1966. Each craft's two-astronaut crew had about as much living space to share with each other as is available in the front seat of a compact car.


Three-Man Craft Roomier

The three-man Apollo spacecraft that entered service in 1968 expanded interior living space for astronauts to about the volume of a big station wagon and added considerably to weight-carrying capacity for round trips from Earth to orbit. For the first time in the American space program, it was possible for astronauts to get out of their seats and their pressure suits and move around in their vehicle. In 3 Earth-orbital, 3 around-the-Moon and 6 Moon-landing flights-a total of 12 manned space flights

from 1968 through 1975 (one of which was the Apollo Soyuz mission)-plus three Skylab missions, the Apollo spacecraft made milestone contributions to nearly every field of science and technology.

Two-man teams of astronaut explorers in the six Moon landings carried out geological field trips on the lunar surface, gathered samples of lunar rocks and soil for return to Earth, and set up geophysical research stations containing a variety of instruments. These units continued to radio data to Earth long after the astronauts had left the Moon.

The Moon flights were the first to take humans away from the direct influence of Earth and showed that they could survive and do useful work on another world.


Apollo Does Extra Research

Scientific and technological research with a manned spacecraft had reached another high point during the period from May 1973 through February 1974. That period included the three manned missions with Skylab, an orbital craft the size of a small three bedroom house-by far the largest spacecraft launched by the United States-and a direct ancestor of Spacelab.

Three astronaut crews, aboard three separate Apollo craft, rendezvoused in turn with Skylab in Earth orbit, linked their Apollo to Skylab's docking port, and entered and worked inside the orbiting laboratory- for nearly a month in the visit by the first crew, nearly two months during the second crew's stay, and about three months in the third crew's visit. The relatively large size of Skylab provided ample interior working and living space and, for the first time, allowed astronauts to work in orbit with bulky equipment, including several large Sun telescopes, furnaces for melting metals in....



With cargo bay doors closed, Spacelab is obscured from view, but well-protected from searing heat, during Orbiter's reentry and landing.

With cargo bay doors closed, Spacelab is obscured from view, but well-protected from searing heat, during Orbiter's reentry and landing.


.....weightlessness, and other apparatus for processing alloys, composites and other substances.

Skylab was reusable but not returnable The three crews did, in fact, use it three times, leaving it vacant from 36 to 52 days between visits. It and all other early spacecraft suffered from the disadvantage that nearly everything they took aloft was on a one-way trip. Ability to bring instruments and research samples back to Earth was very limited. Skylab eventually fell back into the atmosphere after its orbit decayed and, except for a few pieces of debris which fell Australia and into the Pacific Ocean, burned to dust and ashes from atmospheric friction. The only Skylab objects returned had to be loaded into limited space in one of the visiting Apollo craft with their relatively small payload capacity.

It was Space Shuttle with its ability to bring back to Earth 14,500 kilograms (32,000 pounds) of cargo that made Spacelab possible.

Spacelab is designed to exploit the Shuttle's potentialities to the fullest as a vehicle for scientific research.

Spacelab Missions 1 and 2 are verification flights to test and check out Spacelab's systems under differing conditions, using a variety of scientific and technological experiments. The first is a module-plus-pallet configuration while the second is a pallet-only configuration. (Actually Mission 3 will precede 2 in the schedule as it is presently drawl!.) These first flights and early ones to follow are expected to last from 7 to 10 days each. While mission objectives and the types of experiments change with each flight, procedures for returning home remain unchanged.

Shortly before the end of a Spacelab flight, the mission specialists and payload specialists return from the module through the tunnel to the Orbiter mid deck. A mission specialist flips switch R-13 into reverse. The big cargo bay doors close. Latches reengage. The protective doors now shield Spacelab from the searing heat and friction of reentry and landing.


Much Data Returns to Earth

Back on Earth, Spacelab is removed from the cargo bay, freeing the Orbiter for other assignments. Films, recordings, biological specimens, and material samples are removed and given to the appropriate researchers for analysis.

Most of the information generated by research instruments already has been transmitted to Earth during the flight via radio communication links.

The research equipment, like the Orbiter and Spacelab themselves, is reusable and can later be sent back into space if desired.

Spacelab's module and pallets are outfitted with new sets of research instruments and supplies. Requirements of the next mission may call for a different configuration of components than was used last. Spacelab is reassembled in the chosen configuration and inserted into the cargo bay of one of the orbiters of NASA's Shuttle fleet. The space science laboratory is ready for its next trip into orbit.