Space Environment Simulation Lab

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Virtual Tour of Facility

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The SESL was built in 1965 to conduct thermal-vacuum testing for all US manned spacecraft of the Apollo Era. The large size of chamber A meant that full-scale flight hardware could be tested. In addition to Apollo modules, it has been used to test spacesuits, the Skylab/Apollo telescope mount system, various Space Shuttle systems, the Apollo/Soyuz docking module, and various large-scale satellite systems.

The Space Environment Simulation Lab (SESL) contains two large man-rated chambers, instrumentation and data systems, and support facilities. The test chambers have been designated a National Historic Landmark. The chambers, used for space simulation tests, have rotatable floors, dual man-locks to move from ambient air pressure to a thermal-vacuum environment, and irradiation capabilities for various solar simulations.

The Space Environment Simulation Laboratory (SESL) was primarily used to test every command, service, and lunar module sent to space to determine how they would react to the space environment. The chambers were depressurized and cooled to determine how hardware would behave in space. For example, would the modules leak fluids? Would the modules be able to operate in the cold conditions? Would the properties of certain coatings, such as the thermal shield, change when the environmental conditions changed? Astronauts also used the chambers to practice using the modules in such extreme conditions, further readying the astronauts for space travel.

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[top] Film Clips

1983: Astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard EMU Training in 11-foot Chamber - Part 1
1983: Astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard EMU Training in 11-foot Chamber - Part 2
1983: Astronaut Dale Gardner EMU Walk-through in 11-foot Chamber with Brandenstein Observing
1983: George Nelson EMU and MMU Walk-through in Chamber B
1986: Mission Specialist Robert Springer in 11-foot Chamber for EMU Walk-through
1986: Indonesian Payload Specialist Sudarmono and Akbar in High-Altitude Chamber
1986: Space Station Truss Assembly Demonstration
1987: Astronaut Lounge EMU Walk-through in 11-foot Chamber
1987: ASCANS High-Altitude Chamber Ride
1988: Astronauts Nelson, Hilmers, Leestma, Lee, and Duffy in High-Altitude Chamber Training
1989: STS-31 Astronaut K. Sullivan in Hubble Space Telescope Tool Check-out
1991: INTELSAT Dry Run in Chamber B with Astronaut Rick Hieb

[top] Documents

SESL Description

1964: Manrating Features of the SESL Chambers at NASA Manned Spacecraft Center

1965: Test Report of the Structural Integrity and Vacuum Tests 1 thru 5 on Chamber A

1983-1993: Chamber B & A Utilization

1984: Man in Space Theme Study Federal Agency Nomination

2001: Man in Space: Apollo Hardware Test Facilities

2006: The Thermal Vacuum Chamber A

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