Payload Specialist

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A Payload Specialist (PS) is an individual selected and trained by commercial or research organizations for flights of a specific payload on a NASA Space Shuttle mission. People assigned as Payload Specialists included individuals selected by the research community, a company or consortium flying a commercial payload aboard the spacecraft, and non-NASA astronauts designated by international partners.

The term refers to both the individual and to the position on the Shuttle crew.


Payload Specialists were generally selected for a single specific mission and were chosen outside the standard NASA astronaut selection process. They were not required to be United States citizens, but had to be approved by NASA and undergo rigorous training. In contrast, a Space Shuttle Mission Specialist was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate first and then assigned to a mission.

Payload Specialists on early missions were technical experts to accompany specific payloads such as a commercial or scientific satellite. On Spacelab and other missions with science components, payload specialists were scientists with expertise in specific experiments. The term also applied to representatives from partner nations who were given the opportunity of a first flight on board of the Space Shuttle (such as Saudi Arabia and Mexico), and to Congressmen and the Teacher in Space program.

Other positions on board Space Shuttle were Mission Commander, Pilot, and Mission Specialist. Unlike other Shuttle crew, international or scientific Payload Specialists were generally assigned a back-up who trained alongside the primary Payload Specialist and would replace him/her in the event of illness or other disability.

Payload Specialists were flown from 1983 (STS-9) to 2003 (STS-107). The last flown payload specialist was the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon on board STS-107, who was killed in the Columbia disaster with the rest of the crew.

List of all Payload Specialists[edit]


Payload Specialist Mission Notes
Ulf Merbold STS-9 first payload specialists, Ulf Merbold was the first international (German) payload specialist
Byron K. Lichtenberg
Charles D. Walker STS-41-D first non government-affiliated payload specialist
Marc Garneau STS-41-G Garneau was the first Canadian in space, Scully-Power the first Australian
Paul Scully-Power
Gary Payton STS-51-C first military payload specialist
Charles D. Walker STS-51-D
Jake Garn then-U.S. Senator, first legislative branch payload specialist
Lodewijk van den Berg STS-51-B
Taylor Wang
Patrick Baudry STS-51-G two international payload specialists
Sultan bin Salman Al Saud
Loren Acton STS-51-F
John-David F. Bartoe
William A. Pailes STS-51-J
Reinhard Furrer STS-61-A three international payload specialists, most payload specialists on a single flight
Ernst Messerschmid
Wubbo Ockels
Rodolfo Neri Vela STS-61-B first Mexican in space
Charles D. Walker Walker's third and final spaceflight
Robert J. Cenker STS-61-C
Bill Nelson then-U.S. Representative
Gregory Jarvis STS-51-L killed in the Challenger disaster
Christa McAuliffe

From Challenger to Columbia[edit]

Payload Specialist Mission Notes
Samuel T. Durrance STS-35 first post-Challenger payload specialists
Ronald A. Parise
F. Drew Gaffney STS-40
Millie Hughes-Fulford
Thomas J. Hennen STS-44
Roberta Bondar STS-42
Ulf Merbold
Byron K. Lichtenberg STS-45
Dirk Frimout first Belgian in space
Lawrence J. DeLucas STS-50
Eugene H. Trinh
Franco Malerba STS-46 first Italian in space
Mamoru Mohri STS-47 first Japanese astronaut on board Space Shuttle
Steve MacLean STS-52
Ulrich Walter STS-55
Hans Schlegel
Martin J. Fettman STS-58
Chiaki Mukai STS-65
Samuel T. Durrance STS-67
Ronald A. Parise
Frederick W. Leslie STS-73
Albert Sacco
Umberto Guidoni STS-75
Jean-Jacques Favier STS-78
Robert Thirsk
Roger K. Crouch STS-83
Gregory T. Linteris
Roger K. Crouch STS-94 mission reflight
Gregory T. Linteris
Bjarni Tryggvason STS-85
Leonid Kadeniuk STS-87 Ukrainian payload specialist
Jay C. Buckey STS-90 final Spacelab mission
James A. Pawelczyk
Chiaki Mukai STS-95
John Glenn final American payload specialist
Ilan Ramon STS-107 first Israeli in space, final payload specialist, killed in Columbia disaster

Alternate and back-up (not flown) Payload Specialists[edit]

This section needs to be completed

Wubbo Ockels, Michael Lampton

Robert W. Phillips

Robert Thirsk

George W. Simon, Diane K. Prinz

Ulf Merbold

Joseph M. Prahl, Albert Sacco

Jean-Jacques Favier

David H. Matthiesen, R. Glynn Holt

Pedro Duque, Luca Urbani

Paul Ronney

Paul Ronney

Alexander W. Dunlap, Chiaki Mukai

Other statistics[edit]

Multiple flights[edit]

Flights Payload specialist
3 Charles Walker
2 Ulf Merbold, Byron K. Lichtenberg, Samuel T. Durrance, Ronald A. Parise, Chiaki Mukai, Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris
# of payload specialists flights Country
36 Flag of the United States.svg United States
6 Flag of Germany.svg Germany
5 Flag of Canada.svg Canada
3 Flag of Japan.svg Japan
2 Flag of France.svg France
2 Flag of Italy.svg Italy
1 Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saudi Arabia
1 Flag of the Netherlands.svg The Netherlands
1 Flag of Mexico.svg Mexico
1 Flag of Belgium.svg Belgium
1 Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine
1 Flag of Israel.svg Israel
Total 60 Payload Specialist flight opportunities

Payload Specialists who trained later as Mission Specialists[edit]

All were international astronauts.

External links[edit]