The composition of the atmosphere within the planned orbital envelope of the Space Shuttle (200–1000 km) and the velocity necessary to maintain a stable orbit within that envelope (∠8 km s−1) provide unique conditions for forming a high‐purity, moderate energy beam (∠5 eV) of atomic oxygen. At 500 km for example, atomic oxygen comprises approximately 90% of the atmosphere with the remaining 10% being primarily helium. Since the mean thermal speed of the ambient atomic oxygen is substantially less than the orbital speed, a high‐purity beam can be generated by sweeping through the gas with a series of beam‐forming truncated conical shells. Further, molecular shielding provides a low‐density background inside the conical shells (∠103 cm−3) within which the beam is formed. The characteristics of the beam, including energy distribution, flux, and purity variation with orbital altitude and methods for lowering the mean energy, are presented. The approach to forming the beam, the planned apparatus, modes of deployment (attached to the Shuttle or as a free flyer), operational capabilities, measurement capabilities, and attitude control requirements, are also discussed. Finally, a number of gas–surface interaction experiments that have been proposed for this laboratory are discussed.