How rigorous was training for Space Shuttle payload specialists? These astronauts were not selected from the normal astronaut pipeline, but instead were people with clout (politicians), PR opportunities (teachers, etc.), or experts in a mission-specific operation such as satellite borne experiments.

Any sources I have found are light on detail, but most agree that they did have to meet some basic requirements and undergo some training that was less intensive than normal astronaut training. Considering that astronaut training is extremely demanding and intensive, this leaves a lot of room between "here's how to buckle the seatbelt" and "you need to be able to fly the shuttle by yourself."

I am looking for some more detail on the kinds of training payload specialists had to undergo, and whether that training varied among payload specialists.


2 Answers 2


This information is from the 2006 version of the Shuttle Crew Training Catalog USA002960 Rev G., which is unfortunately not online. I've put it on my list to upload. You will note a lot of flexibility allowing the training flow to be customized for each individual depending on their role (first and last paragraphs of the text part).

Payload Specialist Training

The Astronaut Office is responsible for outlining the Payload Specialist (PS) training curriculum. Specific training requirements for each PS are determined by the Crew Support Office manager and the crew payload commander. These training requirements are incorporated into the detailed crew training plan developed by the MOD training manager. Training for PSs is composed of generic and flight-specific training. PS training is intended to achieve the following:

• Provide sufficient shuttle systems training so that PS activities onboard the shuttle are conducted in a safe manner.

• Provide sufficient crew interaction and operations training so that the entire crew can operate safely as a disciplined, integrated team.

• Provide sufficient emergency and safety training so that hazardous situations can be handled with speed and skill.

• Provide sufficient time for payload training so that experiment operations proficiency can be maintained.

Lessons which are recommended for PSs are listed throughout the Crew Training Catalog (CTC). Each Crew Training Requirements Table contains crew position columns which define which lessons each crewmember will receive. Payload Specialist lessons will be indicated using the “PS” column. No facility lessons will be scheduled for the backup PS. However, backup PSs are encouraged to attend facility lessons with the prime PS, as an observer, if space is available. Re-designation of the prime PS within 4 months of launch could affect the satisfactory completion of the training requirements.

A list of self study materials and a flow chart depicting the recommended PS training may also be found in the CTC appendix. This flow chart integrates lessons from each CTC section.

Training outlined in the Shuttle CTC will be augmented for a specific mission based on the requirements of the Payload Integration Plan (PIP) Training Annex, and those of the mission Commander, Payload Commander, Simulation Supervisor, and Training Team Lead.

Here is the material from the appendices. Note that the flowchart starts at the bottom of the first page and works up, then follow the connector labels.

I haven't done my usual thorough job of explaining the acronyms because this chart is basically all acronyms. Hopefully many are obvious, if you need info on some specific ones please ask in a comment.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is great, thanks for taking the time! I think it gives the gist of the minimum required, as well as the various forms advanced training could take. $\endgroup$
    – ben
    Apr 15, 2019 at 21:57

From NASA's website

the payload specialist also must take a comprehensive flight training course to become familiar with Shuttle systems, payload support equipment, crew operations, housekeeping techniques and emergency procedures. This training is conducted at JSC and other locations, as required. Payload specialist training may begin as much as 2 years before a flight.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.