Payload aboard recent shuttle launch tested at AEDC

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Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor, the most recent space shuttle launch, connected the cupola to the International Space Station (ISS) that was tested at Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC).

The cupola test was conducted in AEDC's 12-foot diameter vacuum (12V) space chamber in 1993.

The purpose of the test was to find out what would happen to the windows when exposed to contrasting pressure and temperatures. The test information was used to verify the math modeling techniques they had previously gathered to quantify the heat conduction and thermal radiation properties of the cupola.

According to Chris Smith, technical director of the 718th Test Group, the most recent ISS component to undergo testing in the 12V chamber was the Common Berthing Mechanism in 2000. Testing included long-term balancing using the chamber's solar simulator for direct sunlight heating and liquid nitrogen for shaded area cooling.

"During the test, we rotated the mechanism to induce thermal gradients simulating conditions the hardware would experience in Low Earth Orbit," Smith said.

That was one of the last solar tests Arnold conducted in 12V before starting the reconfiguration to an electric propulsion test capability in 2001.

The cupola provides a 360-degree viewing for the onboard astronauts and a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects and visiting spacecraft. The cupola houses controls for the station's robotic arms and will allow crew members to monitor spacewalks and other exterior activities. The window shutters provide protection from orbital debris.