Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) - 03.13.19

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) provides a facility for Earth science remote sensing instruments using the Destiny science window in the U.S. Laboratory. The Destiny window has the highest quality optics ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Yancy Young, M.S., Yancy B. Young, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Cynthia L. Frost, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Dennis Bruce Toney, Boeing, Huntsville, AL, United States

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2010 - May 2012; March 2013 - March 2016; April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
WORF was launched on Flight 19A (STS-131) at the beginning of Inc. 23 on April 5, 2010. The first photograph taken using WORF occurred on January 21, 2011 by Ag Cam. The facility has been available to support payload operations since that time.

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) provides the capability for remotely operated payloads. In addition, crew members can perform Earth and space science research, including hand held photography. WORF, also known as Destiny, is installed over the nadir (Earth facing) window in the U.S. Laboratory.
Based on an International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR), WORF uses avionics and hardware adapted from the EXPRESS Rack program.
The WORF payload volume is ~0.64m3 (22.6ft3), and can support concurrent operations of up to three investigations, depending on available resources. The WORF also provides access and equipment for crew Earth observations, such as crew restraints, camera brackets, and condensation prevention.
To date, payloads utilizing WORF have focused on geology, agriculture, ranching, environmental and coastal changes, natural disaster assessments, meteor showers, and education.
The U.S. Laboratory Science Window features the highest quality optics ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft. Earth observations/images from space have many applications; e.g., they can be used to study global climates, land and sea formations, and crop weather damage and health assessments. Special sensors can also provide important data regarding transient atmospheric and geologic phenomena (hurricanes and volcanic eruptions), as well as act as a test bed for collecting data for new sensor technology development.
The WORF design uses existing EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack hardware, which includes a Rack Interface Controller (RIC) box for power and data connection, an Avionics Air Assembly (AAA) fan for air circulation within the rack, rack fire detection, and appropriate avionics to communicate with the ISS data network. The WORF maximizes the use of U.S. Laboratory Science Window by providing the resources necessary for sensors (cameras, multispectral and hyperspectral scanners, and other instruments) to capture imagery of the Earth and space.
WORF provides the structural, power, and data transfer resources necessary to accommodate concurrent operations of multiple instruments at the U.S. Laboratory Window. WORF includes a means of preventing the formation of condensation on the interior surface of the window and a retractable bump shield to protect the interior window surface from impacts of loose tools and hardware being used in the WORF payload volume during the set-up and change-out of payload hardware by the crew. The interior of the WORF provides a non-reflective, light-tight environment to minimize stray reflections and glare off the window allowing the use of equipment that is sensitive to extremely low energy phenomena such as auroras. An opaque fabric shroud can be attached to the front of the rack to allow crew members to work in the WORF without the problem of glare from the U.S. Laboratory interior lights.
The high quality optical window that WORF supports is located on the nadir (Earth facing) side of the U.S. Destiny Laboratory module. The window provides a view of 39.5 degrees forward along the axis of the ISS, 32.2 degrees aft, and a total of 79.1 degrees to port. The window is 508 cm (20 in) in diameter. The window is made up of an assembly of four separate panes. The outermost pane is a replaceable debris pane a little more than 1.0 cm (one third of an inch) thick. It is designed to protect the window from small orbital debris or micrometeoroids that might strike the station. If it is severely damaged, it can be replaced during an EVA. The two middle panes serve as the primary and secondary pressure windows, ensuring that the laboratory module stays pressurized. Each of these panes is 3.2 cm (1-1/4 in) thick. The innermost pane, referred to as the scratch pane, protects against accidental bumps from camera lenses and other equipment during set-up inside the WORF rack. The scratch pane incorporates a sliding access door, which provides access to the science window for crew Earth observations and instruments not requiring access to the entire window. When the scratch pane is removed, the WORF provides a deployable metal and acrylic bump shield to protect the primary pressure panes while equipment is set up in front of the window. When the sensors are ready for use and the interior of the WORF rack has been secured with a hatch cover, the bump shield can be retracted using controls on the outside of the WORF rack, giving the cameras/sensors a clear view through the window. When the scratch pane (and its heater element) is removed, the WORF rack provides a variable air flow across the window to prevent condensation.
When the WORF is not in use, when visiting spacecraft are docked to the Node 2 nadir location, or when the window is exposed to orbital ram conditions during special orientations of the ISS, the research lab window is protected by a metal cover on the outside of the Destiny lab module. This external window shutter pivots on hinges and is opened/closed by ground commands using the automated Shutter Actuation System (SAS). The SAS can also be manually operated by the crew. WORF Payload operations consist of crew-tended or automated activities. For crew-tended operations, the WORF hatch is removed and the crew member can use the payload shroud to block any incoming light from the U.S. Laboratory. For automated operations, the hatch is installed to protect the payload hardware and commands are sent to the payload via the ground or WORF laptop computer.

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Facility Operations

  • Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) is equipped with several brackets and special surfaces that allow mounting of multiple sensors, cameras or camcorders inside the facility to view out of the window.
  • WORF operations may either be crew-tended or automated.
  • Subrack Payloads are installed in the WORF Payload Volume by the crew.
  • Commands are sent by the crew or ground team and science data will be routed by WORF to the ground.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Scott KP, Warren DW, Eppler DB, Amsbury DL, Pestana M.  Development of the International Space Station High Optical Quality Window. 36th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Reno, NV; 1998

    Runco Jr. M, Eppler DB, Scott KP, Runco S.  Earth science and remote sensing from the International Space Station utilizing the Destiny laboratory’s science window and the Window Observational Research Facility. 30th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE), Honolulu, HI; 2003 November 10-14 737-740.

    Eppler DB, Runco S.  Earth Observations Capabilities of the Window Observational Research Facility on Board the International Space Station. Conference and Exhibit on International Space Station Utilization, Cape Canaveral, FL; 2001

    Scott KP, Biggar S, Eppler DB, Zalewski E, Brownlow LW, Lulla K.  International Space Station Destiny Module science window optical characterization. 30th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE), Honolulu, HI; 2003 November 10-14 741-744.

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Related Websites

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This patch represents the essential elements associated with pressurized Earth science research aboard the International Space Station. At the top of the patch Klingon script spells out the acronym WORF making reference to the famed Star Trek character of the same name. In doing so it attests to the foresight, honor, integrity and persistence of all those who made the WORF possible. To the right of the Klingon script is a single four pointed star in the form of a cross to honor the late Dr. Jack Estes and Dr. Dave Amsbury, the individuals most responsible for seeing to it that an optical quality, Earth science research window was added to the United States laboratory module, "Destiny". The "flying eyeball" represents the ability of the ISS to allow scientists and astronauts to make and record continuous observations of natural and manmade processes on the surface of the Earth. The "Destiny" laboratory is depicted on the right of the patch above the United States Flag and highlights the position of the nadir looking, optical quality, science window on the module. The light emanating from the window from the lighted interior of the module appropriately illuminates the National Ensign for display during both day and night time. In the center of the patch, below the flying eyeball is a graphic representation of the WORF rack. A science instrument is mounted on the WORF payload shelf and is recording data of the Earth’s surface through the nadir looking, science window over which the WORF rack is mounted. An astronaut is depicted to the left of the WORF rack and is shown operating an imaging instrument, emphasizing the importance of astronaut participation to achieve the maximum scientific return from orbital research. Image provided courtesy of Cynthia Frost.

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image NASA Image: ISS013E07988 - Jeff Williams, Expedition 13 Science Officer, at the U.S. Laboratory Science Window on the ISS.
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image John Phillips, Expedition 11 Science Officer, with the Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) training rack at Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.
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image Close up image of the Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) Flight rack at Kennedy Space Center.
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NASA Image: ISS027E023657 - NASA astronaut Ron Garan, Expedition 27 Flight Engineer, works with ISS Agricultural Camera (ISSAC) hardware in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. ISSAC, a successor of the earlier AgCam, will operate in conjunction with EarthKAM, both instruments to conduct simultaneous but independent operations in the WORF rack in Destiny.

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NASA Image: ISS033E018573 - Different optical cameras and devices mounted in the WORF during Expedition 33.

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