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Spacelab was a reusable laboratory flown into space on the Space Shuttle. It allowed scientists to perform experiments in microgravity in Earth orbit. The laboratory consisted of multiple components, including a pressurized module, an unpressurized carrier and other related hardware.


In August 1973, NASAmarker and ESRO (now European Space Agencymarker (ESA)) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a science laboratory for use on Space Shuttle flights. Construction of Spacelab 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 set including lab module, LM1, was given to NASA free of charge by ESA in exchange for flight opportunities for European astronauts. A second module, LM2, was bought by NASAmarker for its own use from ERNO. In addition to the laboratory module, the complete set also included five external pallets for experiments in vacuum, built by British Aerospace and a pressurized igloo containing the subsystems needed for the pallet-only flight configuration operation.

Spacelab layout showing tunnel, pressurized Module and Pallet.

Eight flight configurations were qualified though even more could be assembled.

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.

The LM2 is now on display in the Bremenhalle exhibition in the Bremen Airportmarker of Bremenmarker, Germanymarker.


Flight Configurations

The Spacelab Module consists of 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.

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.

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

Spacelab missions

Mission name Shuttle Launch date Spacelab mission name Spacelab configuration
STS-9 Columbia November 28, 1983 Spacelab 1 Module LM1 and Pallet
STS-51-B Challenger April 29, 1985 Spacelab 3 Module LM1
STS-51-F Challenger July 29, 1985 Spacelab 2 Triple Pallet configuration
STS-61-A Challenger October 30, 1985 Spacelab D1 Module LM2
STS-35 Columbia December 2, 1990 ASTRO-1 Pallet
STS-40 Columbia June 5, 1991 SLS-1 Module LM1
STS-42 Discovery January 22, 1992 IML-1 Module LM2
STS-45 Atlantis March 24, 1992 ATLAS-1 Double Pallet configuration
STS-50 Columbia June 25, 1992 USML-1 Module LM1
STS-47 Endeavour September 12, 1992 Spacelab-J Module LM2
STS-56 Discovery April 8, 1993 ATLAS-2 Pallet
STS-55 Columbia April 26, 1993 Spacelab D2 Module LM1
STS-58 Columbia October 18, 1993 SLS-2 Module LM2
STS-59 Endeavour April 9, 1994 SRL-1 Pallet
STS-65 Columbia July 8, 1994 IML-2 Module LM1
STS-68 Endeavour September 30, 1994 SRL-2 Pallet
STS-66 Atlantis November 3, 1994 ATLAS-3 Pallet
STS-67 Endeavour March 2, 1995 ASTRO-2 Pallet
STS-71 Atlantis June 27, 1995 Spacelab-Mir Module LM2
STS-73 Columbia October 20, 1995 USML-2 Module LM1
STS-78 Columbia June 20, 1996 LMS Module LM2
STS-83 Columbia April 4, 1997 MSL-1 Module LM1
STS-94 Columbia July 1, 1997 MSL-1R Module LM1
STS-90 Columbia April 17, 1998 Neurolab Module LM2
STS-99 Endeavour February 11, 2000 SRTM Pallet

Other missions

  • STS-92, October 2000, PMA-3, ( )
  • STS-108, December 2001, Lightweight Mission Peculiar Support Structure Carrier (LMC) ( )
  • STS-123, March 2008, Pallet ( ), Dextre


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