Spacelab

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Spacelab concept art, with cutaway of interior (1981)

Spacelab was a reusable laboratory used on certain spaceflights flown by the Space Shuttle. The laboratory comprised multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware housed in the Shuttle's cargo bay. The components were arranged in various configurations to meet the needs of each spaceflight.

Spacelab components flew on 22 Shuttle missions between November 1983 and April 1998.[1] Spacelab allowed scientists to perform experiments in microgravity in Earth orbit.

Contents

Background

Spacelab layout showing tunnel, pressurized Module and Pallet

In August 1973, NASA and ESRO (now European Space Agency or ESA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a science laboratory for use on Space Shuttle flights.[2] Construction of Spacelab was started in 1974 by the ERNO (daughter of VFW-Fokker GmbH, after merger with MBB named MBB/ERNO, and since 2003 part of EADS SPACE Transportation). The first components produced, including lab module, LM1, were given to NASA free of charge by ESA in exchange for flight opportunities for European astronauts. A second module, LM2, was bought by NASA for its own use from ERNO.

Components

In addition to the laboratory module, the complete set also included five external pallets for experiments in vacuum, built by British Aerospace (BAe) and a pressurized igloo containing the subsystems needed for the pallet-only flight configuration operation.

Eight flight configurations were qualified though more could be assembled.

Habitable module

Spacelab flight configurations

The Spacelab Module comprises a cylindrical main laboratory configurable as Short or Long Module flown in the rear of the Space Shuttle cargo bay, connected to the crew compartment by a tunnel. The laboratory had an outer diameter of 4.12 m, and each segment a length of 2.7 m. Most of the time two segments were used in forming the Long Module configuration.

Two habitable modules were built, named LM1 and LM2. LM2 is now on display in the Bremenhalle exhibition in the Bremen Airport of Bremen, Germany.

Pallet

The Spacelab Pallet is a U-shaped platform for mounting instrumentation, large instruments, experiments requiring exposure to space, and instruments requiring a large field of view, such as telescopes. The pallet has several hard points for mounting heavy equipment. The pallet can be used in single configuration or stacked end to end in double or triple configurations. Up to five pallets can be configured in the Space Shuttle cargo bay by using a double plus triple pallet.

A Spacelab Pallet was transferred to the Swiss Museum of Transport for permanent display on 5 March 2010. The Pallet, nicknamed Elvis, was used during the eight-day STS-46 mission, 31 July - 8 August 1992, when ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier was on board Shuttle Atlantis to deploy ESA's European Retrievable Carrier (Eureca) scientific mission and the joint NASA/Italian Space Agency Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1). The Pallet carried TSS-1 in the Shuttle's cargo bay.[3]

Igloo

On spaceflight where a habitable module was not flown, but pallets were flown, a pressurized cylinder known as the igloo carried the subsystems needed to operate the Spacelab equipment.[4] The igloo was 10 feet tall, had a diameter of 5 feet, and weighed 2500 lbs.[5] Two igloo units were manufactured, both by Belgium company SABCA, and both were used on spaceflight.[5] An igloo component was flown on Spacelab 2, Astro-1, ATLAS-1, ATLAS-2, ATLAS-3, and Astro-2.[5]

Other components

Instrument Pointing System (IPS)

Other Spacelab elements include the tunnel, and the Instrument Pointing System (IPS) tailored to the pallet interfaces for precise pointing to space or earth targets.

Spacelab missions

Spacelab in payload bay during STS-90.
Shuttle Columbia during STS-9 with Spacelab Module LM1 and tunnel in its cargo bay.

The Spacelab components were used on 25 shuttle flights, but the components were decommissioned in 1998 except the pallets. Science work was to be moved to the International Space Station and Spacehab module, a pressurized carrier similar to the Spacelab Module. A Spacelab Pallet was recommissioned in 2002 for flight on STS-99. The "Spacelab Pallet - Deployable 1 (SLP-D1) with Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, Dextre" was launched on STS-123. "Spacelab Pallet - Deployable 2 (SLP-D2)" was scheduled for STS-127.[citation needed]

Illustrated cutaway of orbiter and lab
Mission nameOrbiterLaunch dateSpacelab
mission name
Pressurized
module
Unpressurized
modules
STS-2ColumbiaNovember 12, 1981OSTA-11 Pallet[6]
STS-3ColumbiaMarch 22, 1982OSS-11 Pallet[7]
STS-9ColumbiaNovember 28, 1983Spacelab 1Module LM11 Pallet
STS-41-GChallengerOctober 5, 1984OSTA-3Pallet[8]
STS-51-BChallengerApril 29, 1985Spacelab 3Module LM1MPESS
STS-51-FChallengerJuly 29, 1985Spacelab 2Igloo3 Pallets + IPS
STS-61-A (D1)ChallengerOctober 30, 1985Spacelab D1Module LM2MPESS
STS-35ColumbiaDecember 2, 1990ASTRO-1Igloo2 Pallets + IPS
STS-40ColumbiaJune 5, 1991SLS-1Module LM1
STS-42DiscoveryJanuary 22, 1992IML-1Module LM2
STS-45AtlantisMarch 24, 1992ATLAS-1Igloo2 Pallets
STS-50ColumbiaJune 25, 1992USML-1Module LM1EDO
STS-46AtlantisJuly 31, 19921 Pallet[3]
STS-47 (J)EndeavourSeptember 12, 1992Spacelab-JModule LM2
STS-56DiscoveryApril 8, 1993ATLAS-2Igloo1 Pallet
STS-55 (D2)ColumbiaApril 26, 1993Spacelab D2Module LM1Unique Support Structure (USS)
STS-58ColumbiaOctober 18, 1993SLS-2Module LM2EDO
STS-59EndeavourApril 9, 1994SRL-11 Pallet
STS-65ColumbiaJuly 8, 1994IML-2Module LM1EDO
STS-64DiscoverySeptember 9, 1994LITE1 Pallet[9]
STS-68EndeavourSeptember 30, 1994SRL-21 Pallet
STS-66AtlantisNovember 3, 1994ATLAS-3Igloo1 Pallet
STS-67EndeavourMarch 2, 1995ASTRO-2Igloo2 Pallets + EDO
STS-71AtlantisJune 27, 1995Spacelab-MirModule LM2
STS-73ColumbiaOctober 20, 1995USML-2Module LM1EDO
STS-75ColumbiaFebruary 22, 1996Pallet[8]
STS-78ColumbiaJune 20, 1996LMSModule LM2EDO
STS-82DiscoveryFebruary 21, 1997Pallet[8]
STS-83ColumbiaApril 4, 1997MSL-1Module LM1EDO
STS-94ColumbiaJuly 1, 1997MSL-1RModule LM1EDO
STS-90ColumbiaApril 17, 1998NeurolabModule LM2EDO
STS-99EndeavourFebruary 11, 2000SRTMPallet

Besides contributing to ESA missions, Germany and Japan each funded their own Space Shuttle and Spacelab missions. Although superficially similar to other flights, they were actually the first and only non-U.S. and non-European manned space missions with complete German and Japan control.[citation needed]

The Deutschland-1 orbital space plane flight, funded by West Germany, included over seven tons of German science research equipment

The first West German mission Deutschland 1 (Spacelab-D1, DLR-1, NASA designation STS-61-A) took place in 1985. A second similar mission, Deutschland 2 (Spacelab-D2, DLR-2, NASA designation STS-55), was first planned for 1988, but due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, was delayed until 1993. It became the first German manned space mission after German reunification.[10]

The only Japan mission, Spacelab-J (NASA designation STS-47), took place in 1992.

Other missions

Cancelled missions

Spacelab-4, Spacelab-5 and other planned Spacelab missions were cancelled due to the late development of the Shuttle and the Challenger disaster.

Legacy

Spacelab LM2 in Bremen, Germany (2008)

The legacy of Spacelab lives on in the form of the MPLMs and the systems derived from it. These systems include the ATV and Cygnus spacecraft used to transfer payloads to the International Space Station, and the Columbus, Harmony and Tranquility modules of the International Space Station.[11]

References

References

External links