Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to two 8-day spaceflights on the space shuttle. Rats housed in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's animal enclosure were injected (iv or sc) with pegylated interleukin-2 (PEG-IL-2) or a placebo. We tested the hypothesis that PEG-IL-2 would ameliorate some of the effects of spaceflight. We measured body and organ weights; blood cell differentials; plasma corticosterone; colony-forming units (macrophage and granulocyte macrophage); lymphocyte mitogenic, superantigenic, and interferon-gamma responses; bone marrow cell and peritoneal macrophage cytokine secretion; and bone strength and mass. Few immunological parameters were affected by spaceflight. However, some spaceflight effects were observed in each flight. Specifically, peritoneal macrophage spontaneous secretion of tumor necrosis factor-alpha occurred in the first but not in the second flight. A significant monocytopenia and lymphocytopenia were detected in the second but not in the first flight. The second mission produced bone changes more consistent with past spaceflight investigations. PEG-IL-2 did not appear to be beneficial; however, this was mostly due to the lack of spaceflight effects. These studies reflect the difficulty in reproducing experimental models by using current space shuttle conditions.