Shuttle/Spacehab rendezvouses with the Mir space station.
Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 63,638 bytes. 562 x 478 pixels.
Founded by Bob Citron in 1982, Spacehab Inc. was the only entrepreneurial company to successfully develop a commercial manned spaceflight module. Spacehab was initially formed to develop a 5000 kg pressurised module derived from ESA's Spacelab. The 3 meter long Spacehab module was carried inside the Shuttle cargo bay and provides 28.3 cubic meters of expanded habitable space for experiments and logistics transport to space stations.
NASA agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding in December 1985, but its agreement with the European Space Agency prevented it from using competitive systems such as Spacehab's before 1989.
Consequently, the company signed contracts with the main European Spacelab contractors (MBB/ERNO and Aeritalia) to take a share in Spacehab as well as serve as prime contractors. By 1986 some $1 million had been spent on the project and the company initiated negotiations with NASA, claiming some 350 customers had expressed interest in using the module. NASA turned down a request from Spacehab for Shuttle launches on a deferred payment basis in 1987, and also briefly considered cancelling other commercial agreements with Space Industries Inc. and 3M as well. The agency informed Spacehab that no launches would be available before 1995 since the Shuttle was extremely overbooked following the Challenger accident. Spacehab then tried to sign up priority customers such as the Defense Department which would have forced NASA to assign Spacehab to an earlier flight. However, President Reagan's National Space Policy from February 1988 specifically ordered NASA to 'make best efforts' to launch Spacehab's $65-70 million cargo module on the Shuttle in the early 1990s. Federal regulations required NASA to open the expansion module to competition but Spacehab provided the only response by the 30 April 1990 deadline. NASA then agreed in principle to launch six commercial Spacehab flights by 1995, but the company initially found it difficult to raise capital.
Spacehab finally signed a contract with NASA in December 1990 to lease two-thirds of the payload space for $184 million. An important mission was hardware tests for Space Station Freedom; the module can carry up to four Space Station-type experiment racks. NASA agreed to launch Spacehab eight times at a cost of $28.2 million per flight. More than $20 million had already been spent on the project by this time, and Chase Manhattan Bank agreed to provide a further $75 million after Spacehab offered to buy insurance if Congress cancelled the project. The company paid a 20% premium. Spacehab was almost cancelled in January 1992 when the House and Senate panels with NASA oversight indicated Congress only would pay $25 million in 1992 and $35 million in 1993. NASA had requested $39 million and $50 million, respectively. The House and Senate reached a compromise in March which allocated a $40 million budget for Spacehab in Fiscal Year 1992, and the investors (who had spent $44 million at that point plus another $50 million borrowed from Chase Manhattan Bank) said they were satisfied with the project's progress.
|Spacehab - Spacehab expansion modules for the Space Station.|
Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 53,334 bytes. 638 x 482 pixels.
The company also investigated concepts other than the basic augmented Shuttle module, including Spacehab expansion modules for the Space Station. In 1986, Spacehab estimated a basic module would cost $15 million, rising to $40 million for a not-yet-approved advanced model that would have contained thermal control and augmented power and life support systems. The total cost of three basic modules was to be $50 million and Spacehab proposed a first mission in 1988 followed by three in 1989 and four in 1990. Proposed missions included Space Station technology testing and augmented 'construction shack' living quarters for assembly workers. NASA's problems with the Shuttle and Space Station forced the company to delay its first launch until 1994 while the space station module had to be cancelled.
NASA signed a $54-million contract with Spacehab Inc. in August 1995 for Shuttle/Mir logistics flights. The deciding factor was Spacehab's faster turnaround between missions. Spacehab has remained an active participant in the Shuttle/International Space Station program. The company proposed a new $30-40 million docking/logistics double module that would make it possible for the Shuttle to reboost the Space Station by 16 km per docking as opposed to just 4.8 kilometres. Spacehab is also collaborating with Russia on a commercial 'Enterprise' laboratory module.
Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 39,615 bytes. 626 x 261 pixels.
Remained attached to OV-104