Worcester Polytechnic Institute's first payload of spaceflight experiments flew aboard Columbia, STS-40, during June of 1991 and culminated eight years of work by students and faculty. The Get Away Special (GAS) payload was installed on the GAS bridge assembly at the aft end of the cargo bay behind the Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS-l) laboratory. The experiments were turned on by astronaut signal after reaching orbit and then functioned for 72 hours. Environmental and experimental measurements were recorded on three cassette tapes which, together with zeolite crystals grown on orbit, formed the basis of subsequent analyses.

The experiments were developed over a number of years by undergraduate students meeting their project requirements for graduation. The experiments included zeolite crystal growth, fluid behavior, and microgravity acceleration measurement in addition to environmental data acquisition. Preparation also included structural design, thermal design, payload integration, and experiment control.

All of the experiments functioned on orbit and the payload system performed within design estimates.


Mechanical Engineering



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