Assembly Of Spacelab1

Elsewhere at KSC, in the Operations and Checkout Building, the Spacelab-1 hardware had been arriving in dribs and drabs since October 1981. The two showpieces of the mission - the long module and pallet - arrived shortly before Christmas of that year and an official unveiling ceremony took place in February 1982, attended by Vice-President George Bush. By the end of summer, all the experiments had arrived and were fully installed; in November 1982 a Mission Sequence Test verified their compatibility with one another and with 'dummy' Spacelab systems.

''The experiments were brought in by their various scientific teams,'' remembered Spacelab-1 Mission Manager Harry Craft of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville in Alabama. ''We would let them check the experiment out initially in an off-line capability and then we'd bring them into a room and just make sure the instrument had met the transportation environment and still worked. [Then] they'd turn it over to us.'' Six months later, in May 1983, Spacelab-1 was hooked-up to the Cargo Integration Test Equipment (CITE) stand, which duplicated the Shuttle's systems and verified that the hardware would be compatible with Columbia.

On 16 August, the 15,265-kg integrated Spacelab-1 system was moved to the OPF and loaded into the Shuttle's payload bay. Two weeks later, the tunnel was connected between the middeck airlock and Spacelab hatches and fit and leak checks were completed. Early the following month, more tests were conducted to verify the compatibility of the 'real' payload with the 'real' Columbia and the Spacelab-1 experiments were briefly operated via remote control from the Payload Operations Control Center (POCC) at Johnson Space Center.

By this time, problems with an important communications satellite needed to support Spacelab-1 meant that the launch of STS-9 had slipped until late October and Columbia did not move to the VAB for stacking until 24 September. Then on 14 October, two weeks after her smooth rollout to Pad 39A, NASA and ESA jointly decided to postpone the mission again because of potentially hazardous problems uncovered with an SRB exhaust nozzle. The STS-9 stack was returned to the VAB, dismantled and the nozzle replaced; because it was the lowermost portion of the booster, the entire SRB had to be disassembled.

While this work was going on, Columbia returned to the OPF on 20 October. She was back in the VAB two weeks later for restacking and the Shuttle returned to the pad on 8 November. Nearly a year after STS-5, she had now been joined by two new vehicles, the first named Challenger - which had already flown three times in the spring and summer of 1983 - and the newly completed Discovery, due to make her maiden voyage some time in 1984. A fourth Shuttle (Atlantis) would be delivered to KSC in about a year's time to begin making the promise of routine spaceflights a reality.

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