- Press Release
- August 12, 2022
Marshall Center helps enhance International Space Station capabilities, moves science into high gear
When the Space Shuttle Endeavour returns to the International Space Station
during the STS-111 mission in late May, it will arrive with new equipment
that enhances the orbiting outpost’s construction and science capabilities
and improves its safety.
“The new equipment Endeavour will bring to expand the orbiting outpost is
ready to fly in part because of excellent engineering work done here at the
Marshall Center,” said Renee Cox, a project manager with the Flight Projects
Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “The
Shuttle’s payload bay is filled with hardware and facilities that we helped
prepare for delivery.”
A major Space Station component riding in Endeavour’s bay is the Mobile Base
System, which allows the Station’s robotic arm to “inchworm” up and down the
Station’s trusses and aid in maintenance and assembly tasks. It is a piece
of the Canadian Mobile Servicing System that will crawl along the truss
railway, a portion of which was installed on the last Shuttle mission.
The Space Station Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston,
Texas, asked the Marshall team to use their experience in preparing payloads
for integration with the Shuttle to help the Canadian Space Agency as they
readied the Mobile Base System for its flight in the Shuttle. Once the
Shuttle docks with the Station, astronauts will perform two spacewalks to
install the Mobile Base System on the Space Station’s truss.
The engineering savvy of the Marshall team, including several North
Alabama contractors, also enabled another payload to ride in the Shuttle –
the Service Module Debris Panels built by the Russians.
“These debris panels are important because they help protect Zvezda, the
Russian Service Module where the crew eats and sleeps, from debris and
dangerous objects,” said Cox. “The Space Station program had room on the
Shuttle and decided to deliver earlier than planned.”
Marshall’s team helped out by designing and building an adaptor
plate to hold the debris shields to the sidewall of the orbiter.”
“We started last summer,” said Cox, “and delivered the new hardware in
January. That’s a remarkable turn-around-time for producing flight
Also in the Shuttle’s payload bay, the Multi Purpose Logistics Module
Leonardo will be making its third trip to space loaded with new science
facilities and experiments to kick off Expedition Five – the next four-month
research mission on the orbiting laboratory. The Raffaello logistics module
also made two trips to the Station last year.
“This is the fifth flight of a logistics module in 14 months,” said Jon
Holladay, an engineering manager for Marshall’s Pressurized Carrier Group.
“These successful flights demonstrate the excellent teamwork between NASA
and the Italian Space Agency, which built the module.”
The NASA-owned fleet of three logistics modules is managed by Marshall’s
Flight Project Directorate. For STS-111, Leonardo is filled with new
experiments and a major new science facility — the Microgravity Science
The glovebox – a sealed container with built-in gloves on its sides and
fronts — provides a facility that safely contains fluids, flames, particles
and fumes, but still allows the crew to “get a grip” on science equipment
via the gloves.
“Without the glovebox, many types of hands-on experiments would be
impossible or severely restricted on the Space Station,” said Charles
Baugher, project scientist for the glovebox at the Marshall Center.
The glovebox, designed to stay in the Destiny laboratory for 10 years, will
support the first two Space Station materials science experiments, also
being delivered on STS-111. These experiments will study materials processes
similar to those used to make semiconductors for electronic devices and
components for jet engines. In exchange for building the glovebox, the
European Space Agency will be able to perform experiments inside Destiny
until that agency’s Space Station laboratory – the Columbus Orbital
Laboratory – is attached to the Station in a couple of years.
EXPRESS Rack 3, also ferried inside Leonardo, will be the fifth EXPRESS rack
built at Marshall to be delivered to Destiny. These racks house experiments
and provide them with power, fluids, cooling, data and other basic
The Expedition Five research complement includes 24 new and continuing
investigations, including the first two materials science experiments; two
new plant experiments sponsored by industry; a commercial bioreactor that
grows liver cells; facilities that grow biological crystals and zeolite
crystals used in petroleum processing; and numerous experiments that study
how the human body adapts to space flight.
Operation of the science experiments is coordinated from the ground by
controllers on duty around the clock, seven days a week at the Payload
Operations Center at Marshall. It is the command post for both planning and
executing Space Station science activities. It links Earth-bound researchers
with their experiments and the Station crew.
“One of our most challenging tasks early in Expedition Five will be to work
with the crew in space to get the new glovebox facility installed and up and
running,” said Tina Melton, the payload operations director, who will lead
the Expedition Five ground controllers.
The operations center team works with payload developers to create
experiment plans and procedures before a mission, and then works with the
crew as science activities unfold in space. Engineers from Marshall’s
Microgravity Science and Applications Department will be working with
engineers from the European Space Agency to evaluate the hardware and
software performance as the new glovebox is readied for its first
“We have a long history of working with the Europeans on the glovebox
concept,” said Mary Etta Wright, one of the Marshall Center’s lead glovebox
engineers. “We built on our successful flights of gloveboxes on the Space
Shuttle and the Russian space station Mir.”
For the STS-111 mission, Marshall engineers also worked with the Italians on
the logistics module, the Canadians on the mobile base system, and the
Russians on the debris panels.
“The Space Station’s international character really shines on this
expedition,” said Melton.
To launch the payloads and the new Expedition Five Space Station crew safely
into orbit, Marshall managers and engineers will support the STS-111 launch
from both the Launch Control Center at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,
and Huntsville Operations Support Center at the Marshall Center. The Space
Shuttle Projects Office at Marshall manages the Shuttle’s propulsion system
including its three main engines, external fuel tank, and twin solid rocket
boosters. Marshall serves as a key leader in NASA’s research and
development of the propulsion systems that enable safe, reliable and
lower-cost access to space and space exploration.