Today, the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched with the Canadian robotic arm –
carrying this major new component to the International Space Station on
Spacelab pallet hardware built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala.

Before the Shuttle flight, the Canadian Space Agency shipped the
arm –officially known as Canadarm2 or the Space Station Remote Manipulator
System — to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, it was attached
and physically integrated to an unpressurized carrier called a Spacelab

The pallet is 13 feet (3.96 meters) wide and 15 feet (4.57 meters) long and
fits inside the Space Shuttle’s payload bay. Spacelab pallets can carry up
to 3 tons (2.72 tonnes) of equipment and have flown on 13 prior flights
supporting important space experiments and other equipment.

“We have 20 years of experience with the Spacelab pallet, but this will be
the first time it has ever been removed from the bay,” said Jerry Maxwell,
the project manager for this cargo element in Marshall’s Flight Projects

On Sunday, April 22, while the Space Shuttle is docked to the Space Station,
the Shuttle’s Remote Manipulator Arm, will be used to pick up the pallet
with the Canadarm2 still attached – nearly 7,500 pounds (3,402 kilograms)
combined. The robotic arm will then move off the pallet and attach itself to
the International Space Station structure. The arm’s mobile base system can
move in an “inch worm” fashion along rails covering the length of the

The Canadian arm will play a key role in moving equipment and supplies
around the station and assisting with construction tasks. Crews operate the
arm from inside the Space Station Destiny laboratory module, using a robotic
control center delivered during the Space Shuttle’s last trip to the station
in March.

“Once the Canadian arm is deployed, it will pick up the pallet and ‘wave’ it
around to make sure the arm works properly,” said Maxwell.

The tests, scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, are important for determining
how the arm will function as a space construction crane. The following day,
the Canadarm2 will attach the pallet to the Shuttle arm in what is being
called a “handshake” maneuver.

The Space Station arm will then release the pallet, and the Shuttle arm will
be used to put the pallet back in Endeavour’s cargo bay for return to Earth.
During these activities, Maxwell and others from the Flight Project
Directorate will be providing real-time operations support on consoles at
Marshall’s Huntsville Operations Support Center.

The arm is mounted on the launch support assembly – a table-like structure –
built at Marshall. Engineers at the Marshall Center not only built the
pallet hardware, but also provided a variety of other components needed to
get the arm safely to the International Space Station. These items include:

– the bolt stowage assembly;

– the cargo adapters – including the launch support assembly, or mounting
adapter and support structure for the Canadian arm;

– the rigid umbilical adapter;

– the UHF antenna and deployment assembly adapter;

– the laboratory cradle assembly adapter.

To simulate these activities with the arm and pallet, Marshall conducted
tests in 1995 in its Neutral Buoyancy Simulator, a huge water tank that
allowed large mockups to be suspended in water, simulating the weightless or
microgravity environment of space. Modal and static tests were also

Besides the pallet carrying the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, the
STS-100 mission launch includes a host of payloads managed by Marshall’s
Flight Projects Directorate, including the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics
Module, which is carrying two EXPRESS racks, whose shorthand name is based
on the full designation EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space
Station racks.

These racks will house several experiments sponsored by Marshall’s
Microgravity Research Program — including the first industry-sponsored
experiments sent to the Space Station. The experiments are part of NASA’s
Space Product Development Program that helps private companies fly
commercial research projects in space.