SPACEHAB, Inc.'s Wake Shield Facility provides a unique, free-standing environment for scientific experiments to be conducted in outer space. Experiments attached to the ram side of the shield are exposed to high atomic oxygen. Experiments on the wake side are in an extremely high-quality vacuum environment. This flight-proven facility, deployed under the auspices of the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center of the University of Houston, provides a platform for exposure experiments, materials processing and annealing, and communications payloads testing. The Wake Shield Facility is also equipped with an attitude control system capable of better than 2° pointing accuracy during free flight. Flown on STS-69
Wake Shield Facility is an experimental science platform that was placed in low-earth orbit by the Space Shuttle. It is a 3.7 meter (12 ft) diameter, free-flying stainless steel disk.
The WSF was deployed in the wake of the Space Shuttle at an orbital altitude of over 300 kilometers (186 mi), within the thermosphere, where the atmosphere is exceedingly tenuous. The forward edge of the WSF disk redirected atmospheric and other particles around the sides, leaving an "ultra-vacuum" in its wake. The resulting vacuum was used to study epitaxial film growth.
The WSF has flown into space three times, on board shuttle flights STS-60, STS-69 and STS-80. During STS-60, some hardware issues were experienced, and, as a result, the WSF was only deployed at the end of the shuttle's robotic arm. During the later missions, the WSF was deployed as a free-flying platform in the wake of the shuttle.