Payload Specialist

Payload Specialist

In NASA vernacular, a Payload Specialist (PS) was an individual selected and trained by commercial or research organizations for flights of a specific payload on a Space Shuttle mission. Payload specialists included non-NASA astronauts designated by the international partners, individuals selected by the research community, or a company or consortia flying a commercial payload aboard the spacecraft.


Payload Specialists were generally selected for a single specific mission and were chosen outside the astronaut training process. They were not required to be United States citizens, but had to be approved by NASA and undergo rigorous training. In contrast, a Mission Specialist is selected as an astronaut 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 roles on board Space Shuttle were Mission Commander,Pilot, and Mission Specialist. Contrary to other Shuttle crew, international or scientific Payload Specialists were generally assigned as back-up crew (back-up Payload Specialist or alternate payload specialist).

Payload Specialists were flown from 1983 (STS-9) to 2003 (STS-107). NASA does not foresee any more need to fly payload specialists before the end of the Shuttle program in 2010. 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


Ulf Merbold, Byron K. Lichtenberg (first payload specialists, Ulf Merbold was the first international (German) payload specialist)

Charles Walker

Marc Garneau, Paul D. Scully-Power (Garneau was the first Canadian in space)

Gary Payton (first military payload specialist)

Charles Walker, Jake Garn (first legislative branch payload specialist)

Lodewijk van den Berg, Taylor G. Wang

Patrick Baudry, Sultan Salman Al Saud (two international payload specialists)

Loren W. Acton, John-David F. Bartoe

William A. Pailes

Reinhard Furrer, Ernst Messerschmid, Wubbo Ockels (three international payload specialists, most payload specialists on a single flight)

Rodolfo Neri Vela, Charles Walker (third and final flight of Charles Walker, Neri Vela was the first Mexican in space)

Robert J. Cenker, Bill Nelson

Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe (killed in the Challenger disaster)

From Challenger to Columbia

Samuel T. Durrance, Ronald A. Parise (first post-Challenger payload specialists)

F. Drew Gaffney, Millie Hughes-Fulford

Thomas J. Hennen

Roberta L. Bondar, Ulf Merbold

Byron K. Lichtenberg, Dirk D. Frimout (first Belgian in space)

Lawrence J. DeLucas, Eugene H. Trinh

Franco Malerba (first Italian in space)

Mamoru Mohri (first Japanese astronaut on board the Shuttle)

Steven MacLean

Ulrich Walter, Hans Schlegel

Martin Fettman

Chiaki Mukai

Samuel T. Durrance, Ronald A. Parise

Fred W. Leslie, Albert Sacco Jr.

Umberto Guidoni

Jean-Jacques Favier, Robert Brent Thirsk

Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris

Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris (Mission reflight)

Bjarni Tryggvason

Leonid Kadeniuk (Ukrainian payload specialist)

Jay C. Buckey, James A. Pawelczyk (Final Spacelab mission)

Chiaki Mukai, John H. Glenn (Last American payload specialist)

Ilan Ramon (first Israeli in space, last payload specialist, killed in the Columbia disaster)

Alternate and back-up (not flown) Payload Specialists

This section needs to be completed

Wubbo Ockels, Michael Lampton

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

Alexander W. Dunlap, Chiaki Mukai

Other statistics

Number of flights

# of flights Payload specialist
3 Charles Walker
2 Ulf Merbold, Byron K. Lichtenberg, Samuel T. Durrance, Ronald A. Parise, Chiaki Mukai, Roger Crouch, Greg Linteris
1 All others

# of payload specialists flights Country
36 United States
6 Germany
5 Canada
3 Japan
2 France
2 Italy
1 Saudi Arabia
1 The Netherlands
1 Mexico
1 Belgium
1 Ukraine
1 Israel
Total 60 Payload Specialist flight opportunities

Payload Specialists who trained later as Mission Specialists

All were international Payload Specialists.

External links

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