Experiments in the SPACEHAB Research Double Module (RDM) included nine commercial payloads involving 21 separate investigations, four payloads for the European Space Agency with 14 investigations, one payload/investigation for ISS Risk Mitigation, and 18 payloads supporting 23 investigations for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR).
In the physical sciences, three studies examined the physics of combustion, soot production and fire quenching processes in microgravity. An experiment that compresses granular materials in the absence of gravity furthered understanding of construction techniques. Another experiment evaluated the formation of zeolite crystals, which can speed the chemical reactions that are the basis for chemical processes used in refining, biomedical and other areas. Yet another experiment used pressurized liquid xenon to mimic the behaviors of more complex fluids such as blood flowing through capillaries.
Another experiment evaluated the commercial usefulness of plant products grown in space. A third experiment looked at developing a new technique of encapsulating anti-cancer drugs to improve their efficiency.
Other studies focused on changes, due to space flight, in the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems; in the systems that sense and respond to gravity; and in the capability of organisms to respond to stress and maintain normal function. NASA also tested a new technology to recycle water prior to installing a device to recycle water permanently aboard the ISS.
In addition, there were a number of experiments with the European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, German Space Agency and a university. The U.S. Air Force was conducting a communications experiment. Students from six schools in Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein and the United States were probing the effects of space flight on spiders, silkworms, inorganic crystals, fish, bees and ants, respectively.
There were also experiments in Columbia's payload bay, including three attached to the top of the RDM: the Combined Two-Phase Loop Experiment, Miniature Satellite Threat Reporting System and Star Navigation. There were six payloads/experiments on the Hitchhiker pallet — the Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science, Technology, Applications and Research. These six investigations looked outward to the Sun, downward at Earth's atmosphere and inward into the physics of fluid phenomena, as well as tested technology for space communications. Additional secondary payloads included the Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local Exhaust Experiment and Ram Burn Observation.
During the debris recovery activities, some of the Columbia experiments were found. Scientists have indicated valuable science will still be produced. Much of the scientific data was transmitted to experimenters on the ground during the flight.