This answer has astronauts entering a vertically oriented Space Shuttle for a Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) while this answer has them entering the shuttle when it is oriented horizontally for a Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT).

So somehow the shuttle had to be designed to allow people to walk in in both orientations and get to any of the seats and sit down while wearing a space suit and possibly gloves, presumably with some assistance.

Question: How did that work? What were the paths an astronaut took from entrance to seat in each of the orientation? Where were the footfalls placed in each case?


3 Answers 3


Horizontal wasn't too complicated. The crew entered through the side hatch. The pilot and commander got in first and climbed up the flight deck access ladder through the port inter-deck access hole. Then the back seaters on the flight deck. Finally those seated in the middeck.

This picture from the SODB Volume IV (not online but on the to-be-scanned list) is the best one showing the relationship of the side hatch, ladder, and access hole that I know of.

enter image description here

Vertical - the crew entered via the side hatch from the White Room. They were assisted by cape crusaders during this activity. When they entered, they were standing on a platform placed over the door of the toilet compartment. They then clambered through the interdeck access hole and climbed up the flight deck floor using loops affixed to the floor and the mission specialist seats as hand and foot holds. The order of ingress was the same.

Imagine this picture tilted 90 degrees to the right.

enter image description here

Here's a photo from the middeck (from the cape crusader link, annotated by me).

enter image description here

Training for both kinds of ingress took place in JSC's Bulding 9. The small shuttle nose mockups in the left and center of this picture could be pitched up 90 degrees. Their interiors were flight-like.

enter image description here

(Personal photo)


I wanted to add something I found while watching a STS-128 and STS-132 Crew ingress video on YouTube. I think this will really help because it includes images of astronauts actually climbing into their seats during crew ingress.

I'm attaching multiple screenshots. I think they really help to visualize everything.

Notice the yellow straps in the first and secondimage. These were on the lower deck. They were placed there so the astronauts could basically pull themselves up into the shuttle seats.

STS-128 crew member ingress, with crew member inning into seat on lower deck with help of the yellow strap

STS-131 Crew ingress; crew member seated on lower deck

This one pictures the STS-132 commander about to climb into his seat. From the image it seems there is something to stand on that helps him- since the commander and pilot seats are much closer to front/much higher when in vertical position than the rear seats.

STS-131 Commander next to his seat

This last one shows a camera view from the front window and you can notice the crew member helped by support personnel being seated into the rear seat use the front seats to pull herself up.

Crew member being seated in rear seat

Lastly this one is just of the whole crew seated including pilot and commander

View of all crew on top deck, seated and ready

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Great pictures! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 23:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks! Can you add a link to the particular YouTube video? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 23:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Could it be this one? youtube.com/watch?v=vFgsY1GRVkc $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 22:21

It was actually much easier for the crew to enter the vehicle and sit down when horizontal than when the vehicle was stacked and in the vertical position (no climbing up over the MS1/2 seats to reach the commander and pilot seats). For the CEIT the logistics were quite simple. In the OPF then have movable platforms with staircases (similar to what you use to provide stairs for airliners at airports without jetways). Though instead of being just one set of stairs that lead to the door that sticks out perpendicular to the craft, the mobile platforms used in the OPF had a deck that fitted along side of the shuttle to provide access to the side of the vehicle instead of just providing a way in/out of the side door.

For the suited crew, the crew just walked up the stairs and through the door into the vehicle. The ascent/entry suits allowed plenty of mobility for walking and moving around. The Pilot and commander still had to climb over the C3 panel to get to their respective seats, but that too had a small temporary step placed to assist them up and a cover over the top of the C3 panel to prevent damage to the panel and switches.

There were always a number of pictures taken at the CEIT, (as well as for general vehicle processing in the OPF) so I wouldn't be surprised if you could find a picture of the actual mobile stairs/platform used somewhere on the internet. It will be the same platform that allowed the workers is the OPF to access the side of the vehicle for inspection and repair during normal orbiter processing (without having to use an extension ladder with tennis-balls over the tips...)

Ingress to the vehicle when it is stacked and vertical was the same whether it is in the VAB or out on pad 39 A/B. In the VAB there was a "floor" where the floor at each level extended out and fitted close to the side of the stacked vehicle providing worker access at just about each level. On the pad there was the walkway that extended over to the orbiter side door (the enclosed walkway you see the crew using to get into the vehicle on TV).

I don't know of any time the crew actually entered the vehicle in the VAB, but they could certainly have walked out and inspected how readying for flight was going at any point in time. Getting in for flight at the pad utilized a number of temporary steps and platforms that the close-out crew provided to help get the pilot and commander in their seats before getting any mission specialists strapped in. The pilot and commander had to enter the door and physically climb up to their seats using the temporary platforms. The mission specialists were more or less at the level of the door, so their climb into their seats was more or less a horizontal translation from the door into their chairs.

At any rate, there was much more involved in getting the crew into their seats when the vehicle is vertical.


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