Spacelab-J (SL-J) was the first major cooperative program between NASA and the Japanese space agency, NASDA. The concept of a collaborative Spacelab mission between the two countries was first proposed in 1979, even before the first Space Shuttle flight. An announcement of opportunity was made to the Japanese scientific community in August 1979. Out of 103 original proposals received, 62 were selected for further ground-based studies. In 1984, NASDA selected the final 34 life and materials sciences experiments that would fly on Spacelab-J. Selection of a Japanese payload specialist to provide assistance with the NASDA experiments occurred in parallel with the experiment selection process. Out of 533 applicants, three were chosen: Dr. Mamoru Mohri, who became the first NASDA astronaut, and two alternate candidates.
The agreement between NASA and NASDA stipulated that NASDA would select and develop the Japanese portion of the payload to be flown in the Spacelab, while NASA would provide launch services and mission management, the cost of which would be reimbursed by NASDA. NASDA was responsible for having specialists on hand to provide science and engineering support to the Shuttle during the mission. NASA's responsibilities included integrating the experiments and hardware that composed the payload, installing the payload in the Spacelab, and ensuring that all systems functioned properly. NASA was also responsible for designing, managing, and overseeing the mission, training the crew, and supporting postflight activities. After NASDA had selected its complement of experiments, there were still available racks in the Spacelab for American experiments. Nine NASA experiments were selected from proposals received in response to solicitations and Announcements of Opportunity. American and Japanese scientists participating in SL-J formed a working group, which met periodically before the mission to plan and coordinate scientific activities. In 1991, the two space agencies negotiated a further agreement to share data and samples obtained during the experiments, so that science return from the mission could be maximized.
Spacelab-J constituted a one-time payload, which flew in 1992 on the STS-47 mission.