[sarex] SPACEHAB Ready for Last Mission-STS 118
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Wed Jul 18 14:57:26 PDT 2007
SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468
SPACEHAB Ready for Last Mission
SPACEHAB is preparing to close the hatch on its shuttle research and
cargo carrier enterprise fourteen years after its first pressurized
module flew into space on an orbiter while the company begins their
strategic journey into space-based microgravity processing.
The company provided its first space-rated travel trailer of sorts to
NASA in 1993. Later, the design would come in especially handy for
missions to the Mir space station and during the construction and
outfitting of the International Space Station.
Image right: A SPACEHAB module is loaded into a payload canister to be
taken out to the launch pad where it will be loaded into the space
shuttle Endeavour. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
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The single module bolted into Endeavour's cargo bay will continue that
work by carrying some 5,800 pounds of equipment and supplies to the
International Space Station, according to Don Moore, director of ground
operations at the company's Cape Canaveral, Fla., facility.
"We're all sad that this is the last module mission," Moore said. "It's
kind of hard to see that go away."
Pete Paceley, SPACEHAB Flight Services V.P. said, “but it is a
transition flight for us and we’re excited about the demonstration tests
for microgravity processing that we’re flying as well.”
NASA could still enlist a pressurized SPACEHAB module for a shuttle
supply run in the future, but the flight manifest currently leaves that
task to the Italian-built multi-purpose logistics modules.
The MPLMs are built to attach directly to the space station during a
shuttle mission, but still come back with the orbiter. A module from
SPACEHAB remains in the cargo bay during the entire flight.
For now, SPACEHAB is keeping its two modules certified for flight until
the shuttles retire in 2010.
Since flying its first pressurized module in 1993 aboard STS-57, the
company has claimed the mantle of a successful aerospace corporation by
catering to researchers and others willing to pay to get their
experiments into space and back aboard an orbiter.
SPACEHAB modules have ridden shuttles into orbit more than a dozen
times.Image left: Space Shuttle Discovery recently carried a SPACEHAB
module as part of its mission to resupply the International Space
Station. The modules can hold spare parts, equipment and supplies, or
can act as laboratories of their own, depending on the mission. Photo
Missions often left enough room for other paying research customers.
"Anybody that flew liked the ease that they could come in and work in
our facilities," Moore said.
“Our future depends on our ability to leverage our unique capabilities,
engineering expertise, and application of commercial processes for
spaceflight processing,” Paceley said.
Among the hundreds of past experiments carried out aboard the modules
include aerogel, the super-lightweight substance that became the
centerpiece of the Stardust mission to gather particles from
He emphasized that the company could quickly fly an experiment again,
too, something that NASA could not always do.
"We'd always find room for it," Moore said.
That approach is also fueling plans for corporate life after the shuttle
retires. In addition to the utilization of the ISS for microgravity
processing, the company is also working on a spacecraft that could ride
atop expendable rockets and carry self-contained experiments or
manufacturing elements into orbit.
But Moore's focus is on Endeavour's upcoming flight, and there is plenty
to focus on.
Just packing the module takes considerable planning, especially
considering that some of the bags have to be loaded while the module is
on its back inside Endeavour at the launch pad.
Image right: Crew members for mission STS-118 familiarize themselves
with the SPACEHAB module they will unload while at the International
Space Station. The cargo module will be packed with equipment and
supplies. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Moore said the loaders devise a complex choreography to get the 5,800
pounds of gear on racks and stacked in bags exactly where the astronauts
expect to find it.
"You get down to people's weight, who's going to go down first, who's
going to go down second," he said.
The company uses mock-ups of the module to fine-tune the routine.
Astronauts typically get some time in the actual module and the trainers
to find out what they will see once they reach space.
In the case of STS-118, the crew can expect a tight fit in the module
because of all the gear strapped to the walls. The good news is that
what seems like a tight fit on Earth opens up significantly in space,
where the lack of gravity lets astronauts float up to the module's
window. Crew members can also tuck themselves into crevices and sleep
inside the module.
As with all the missions that carry a SPACEHAB element, Moore will sit
in the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center during launch
before heading to Mission Control at Johnson Space Center to oversee the
module during the flight.
"Every launch is special," he said. "I think we're just going to be on
the edge of our seats."
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