WORF has finally joined the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). That’s great news for NASA as well as members and fans of the Klingon High Council who are delighted to occupy a prime location for exquisite surveillance of the Earth and Federation activities.
WORF is the acronym for the Window Observational Research Facility, a new science imaging platform on the ISS, which is named after the popular Klingon character from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” science fiction television series. The surface panel on WORF sports a beautiful patch with a Klingon language inscription – spelling out the name WORF in Klingon script (see photo). Although seemingly innocent, Universe Today has learned that the Klingon High Council may have more sinister plans afoot for WORF involving future imperial undertakings.
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The WORF science rack was one of the major new pieces of scientific equipment delivered to the ISS by the seven person crew of Space Shuttle Discovery during the highly successful STS 131 mission which blasted to space on April 5, 2010. WORF was packed into the ‘Leonardo’ resupply module which was the primary payload inside Discovery’s cavernous cargo bay.
WORF was designed by Earthlings to function as a photographic darkroom for precision remote space sensing of the Earth. As such, it’s also the only rack on the station that ISS astronauts and cosmonauts can actually physically float into and then maneuver equipment around to conduct their science research. “The working volume to accommodate instruments is about 23 cubic ft (0.8 cubic m)”, according to Dennis Toney of Boeing, Huntsville, Al, who I interviewed at the Kennedy Space Center during the STS 131 launch.
Panels, shelving and brackets inside WORF provide numerous attach points for digital cameras, multispectral and hyperspectral scanners, camcorders, sensors and other instruments to capture Earth imagery through Destiny’s nadir – Earth facing – window.
The experiments will focus on studies of atmospheric and climate properties, land and sea formations, geology, agriculture, ranching, environmental and coastal changes, and also be linked to public outreach and education efforts.
“EarthKAM is an example of a remotely controlled digital camera system that will be commanded to take pictures by middle school students across the US using web based tools”, Toney explained to me. The kids will learn how to work as real scientists. See WORF graphics provided to the author by Boeing/Denis Toney.
Astronauts installed the WORF darkroom inside the US Destiny Laboratory module and purposely “placed it in a bay directly over the labs 20 inch (508 mm) diameter observation window to provide direct access to the window from inside WORF”, said Toney.
“WORF provides the infrastructure to maximize the usability of the window. Up to 5 science payloads can be accommodated at once”, explained Toney. Numerous instrument connector ports and jacks for Ethernet computer connections, power, video and cooling are built directly into the rack to transmit the multispectral and high resolution experimental imaging data to the ground.
The Destiny window is the highest quality optical glass science window ever flown on any manned spacecraft. The window is constructed from 4 panes of optical quality glass pressed together that permit greater than 95% transmission across most of the visible spectrum and 90% transmission in the near infrared.
The photographic and spectral gear – up to 350 mm aperture – mounted inside WORF can be remotely operated from Earth or by astronauts on board, who may also work in a hand held mode as required by the particular piece of equipment to maximize the scientific return.
An external shutter protects the window from micrometeoroid and orbital debris floating outside the station. The hinged cover can be manually opened and closed by the crew inside the cabin with a hand crank.
The “Leonardo’ Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) weighs over 27,000 pounds and is one of three such modules built by the Italian Space Agency. The module serves as a space moving van and was loaded with 16 science and storage racks – including WORF – holding over 17,000 pounds of science supplies and experiments, crew life support provisions, spare parts, a new astronaut sleep quarter and a minus 80 degree freezer to stow science samples collected by the resident ISS crew.
After Discovery docked to the ISS, Leonardo was hoisted out of Discovery’s cargo bay and berthed to the station for the duration of the flight. The massive orbiting outpost is 98% complete – by habitable volume – and weighs in at 800,000 pounds and spans the length of an American football field.
The STS 131 mission of Space Shuttle Discovery is nearing a close. Discovery undocked from the ISS early this morning at 8:52 AM and about 213 miles above earth and is set to land at KSC on Monday morning at 8:51 AM, weather permitting.
Authors Note: This paragraph is just for fun excepting Federation Counterintelligence agents. Unbeknownst to the crew members and NASA, top secret Klingon military surveillance technology was embedded deep within the WORF unit, according to a source who requested anonymity. Whilst the STS 131 crew was innocently hooking up umbilical line connections to the ISS electrical and computer systems, they unwittingly activated the Klingon Empires cloaking chip previously hidden inside WORF by time traveling Klingon spies dispatched by the High Council. The chip instantaneously began transmitting encoded data via sub space frequencies to eagerly waiting intelligence operatives working for the Klingon Chancellor. Stay tuned for more on WORF and the Klingon infiltration of the ISS.
Earlier STS 131 related articles by Ken Kremer:
Read more about the WORF Facility and the WORF Patch here: