Window Observational Research Facility


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Facility Overview

This content was provided by Susan Spencer, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Facility Summary

The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) provides a facility for Earth science remote sensing instruments using the Destiny science window with the highest quality optics ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft.

Facility Manager(s)

  • Susan Spencer, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States
  • Co-Facility Manager(s)

    Information Pending

    Facility Developer(s)

    Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

    Sponsoring Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • The Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) provides a facility by which remotely operated payloads and crewmembers can perform Earth and space science research, including hand held photography, at the U.S. Laboratory Science Window on the ISS.

    • WORF is based on an International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR) and utilizes avionics and hardware adapted from the EXPRESS Rack program.

    • The rack provides a payload volume equivalent to 0.8 m3, and will be able to support up to three payloads simultaneously, depending on available resources and space available at the window.The WORF will also provide access and equipment for crew Earth observations, such as crew restraints, camera/camcorder brackets, and condensation prevention..

    • WORF payloads include those focusing on, geology, agriculture, ranching, environmental and coastal changes, and education.


    The U.S. Destiny Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS) features an Earth observation window with the highest quality optics ever flown on a human occupied spacecraft. Images from space have many applications i.e., they can be used to study global climates, land and sea formations, 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 testbed 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, 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 will maximize the use of this window by providing sensors (cameras, multispectral and hyperspectral scanners, camcorders and other instruments) to capture imagery of the Earth and space.

    WORF also provides attachment points for power and data transfer and the capability for multiple instruments to be mounted and used in the window simultaneously. WORF will include 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 area during the set-up and changeout of sensor packages 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 use to equipment that are sensitive to extremely low energy phenomena such as auroras. An opaque fabric shroud can be attached to the front of the rack to allow crewmembers to work in the WORF without the problem of glare from the U.S. Laboratory interior lights.

    The high quality optical window that WORF will support 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, a multi-layer scratch pane, is a little less than a 1.7 cm (half-inch) thick. The scratch pane has an integral heater element to prevent condensation from forming on the pressure panes, and has a special anti-scratch coating that protects against accidental bumps from camera lenses and other equipment during set-up work inside the WORF rack. Although the scratch pane can support normal photography, it is often necessary to remove the scratch pane during the operation of other high-resolution sensors. 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 to the Earth below. 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 docking with the ISS, 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 rotated open and closed by the crew using controls on the WORF rack.

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    Facility Operations

    After transfer into the US Lab, WORF will be installed in the LAB1D3 location over the Destiny Window. The installation process includes attaching light closeouts, removing launch fasteners, connecting to U.S. Laboratory resources and installing mounting brackets.

    After installation, WORF will be powered on by crew/ground command and a checkout will be performed to ensure all systems are functioning. After checkout, WORF will be ready to support payload operations. Typical payload operations will include mounting the imaging equipment on the payload shelf, connecting power/data cables, powering payload subsystems and initiating payload software.

    WORF Payload operations will consist of crew-tended or automated activities. For crew-tended operations, the WORF hatch will be 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 will be installed to protect the payload hardware and commands can be sent to the payload via the ground or WORF laptop computer.

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    Results/More Information

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    Information Pending

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Eppler DB, Runco S.  Earth Observations Capabilities of the Window Observational Research Facility on Board the International Space Station. American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics; 2001

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    Related Websites
  • Window Observational Research Facility at Marshall Space Flight Center
  • ISS WORF Summary
  • ISS WORF Video (Part 1 of 2):
  • ISS WORF Video (Part 2 of 2)
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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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    image 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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    image NASA Image: ISS033E018573 --- Photograph showing different optical cameras and devices mounted in the WORF during Expedition 33.
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