At KSC, your experiment is processed through a number of steps before it flies as part of an integrated Space Shuttle payload. Before discussing the details of Spacelab payload processing, it is helpful to consider an overview of the integration process. The following is a synopsis of the major activities involved in preparing a Spacelab for flight aboard the Space Shuttle.

Individual experiments are received at the Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building in the KSC industrial area. Following inspection and preparation in laboratories, payload elements begin an assembly-line-like process that brings them together to form a compatible, functioning payload unit. The cutaway drawing of the O&C Building assembly and test area on the next page shows the location and some of the activities associated with receiving and integration operations. Each phase of integration - experiment integration, Spacelab integration, and cargo integration test equipment (CITE) testing - results in a progressively more complete, functional, and safe flight payload.

At the completion of integration in the O&C building, the payload is moved by means of a specially designed canister/transporter to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for integration with the Space Shuttle Orbiter vehicle. From the OPF, the Orbiter is towed to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and mated with the external tank and solid rocket boosters. Finally, the integrated STS vehicle and its payload are moved to the launch pad on the mobile launcher platform (MLP). Non-human life science experiments are processed in a separate facility (Hangar L) and are integrated with the Spacelab either in the O&C Building, the OPF, or at the launch pad, as required. This represents the standard processing flow for a non-deployable payload such as Spacelab.

Certain shuttle flights require that smaller attached and deployable payload elements fly together in a single cargo. In this case, a mixed processing flow is necessary. The attached payload elements of a mixed payload, non-Spacelab pallets or special structures are processed normally through the O&C Building while the deployable payloads, satellite and upper stage combinations are prepared in the Vertical Processing Facility (VPF). The various payload elements are brought together in the VPF, integrated, and taken to the launch pad for transfer into the payload bay of the waiting Orbiter vehicle.

A Spacelab mission may share an STS flight with scientific payloads in a number of special categories. These include self-contained Getaway Special canisters in the payload bay and student projects, locker experiments, and special equipment on the middeck. Each of these payloads is processed in dedicated laboratories and normally do not impact the Spacelab processing flow.

  1. Arrival and Receiving
  2. Preparation and Staging
  3. Experiment Integration
  4. Spacelab Integration
  5. CITE Testing
  6. Transport to OPF
  7. Orbiter Integration
  8. OPF-to-VAB Transfer
  9. Assembly and Rollout
  10. Launch Pad Operations
  11. Launch and Mission
  12. Post-Flight Payload Operations

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Last Updated Friday September 1 14:39:35 EDT 1995
Tom Nguyen (
Ernest Cody (
Jim Dumoulin (