EP-107 Skylab: A Guidebook


CHAPTER II : History of the Skylab Program



[6] From the beginning of the Apollo program, possibilities were considered to use Saturn Apollo components for future missions and applications after the lunar landings (Table 1).

During the early sixties, the Apollo Extensions Support Study identified possible new or modified flight projects which could use launch vehicles...


TABLE 1. History of Skylab Program.











































[7] ....and spacecraft components developed for Apollo. One of the possibilities considered at that time was the use of an Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) to carry an assembly of small solar telescopes into orbit, to deploy and operate them on the Service Module with the assistance of the astronauts, and to return the exposed films to Earth on board the Command Module (Fig. 3). This assembly was named Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) in 1963. From these early efforts to extend the use of Apollo for further applications, a permanent organization evolved. On August 6, 1965, the Apollo Applications Office was established at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Apollo Applications program was to include long duration Earth orbital missions during which astronauts would carry out scientific, technological, and engineering experiments. After completion of the Apollo program, spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicles originally developed for the lunar exploration program would be modified to provide the capability for crews to remain in orbit for extended periods of time.

As these studies progressed, plans for more elaborate observations of the Sun with a group of solar telescopes mounted on Apollo-related spacecraft also developed further. A first schedule, established in March, 1966, envisioned three Experimental Modules consisting of Saturn S-IVB spent stages which would be converted to "Workshops," and four Apollo Telescope Mounts. The Saturn S-IVB stage serves as second stage of the Saturn IB launch vehicle and also a third stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle.

According to these plans, a workshop in orbit would be installed in the empty S-IVB stage. This stage would ascend into space as part of the Saturn IB launch vehicle, carrying a manned Command and Service Module. After the S-IVB stage had used up its fuel, the astronauts in the CSM would dock with the stage and enter the stage's hydrogen tank through an airlock passageway. A number of biomedical experiments would be performed in the Command Module on this mission. No crew quarters were planned at that time in the S-IVB stage workshop; activities would...


Figure 3. Early 1960's concept of a telescope mount on the Command and Service Module. [small picture- it's a link to a larger picture on a separate page]

Figure 3. Early 1960's concept of a telescope mount on the Command and Service Module.


[8] ....be limited to familiarization with moving about in a controlled and enclosed environment under zero gravity. This concept of using the S-IVB stage was the precursor of the present Skylab.

On July 7, 1966, NASA announced the establishment of new Apollo Applications Program Offices at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. A new schedule, released on December 5, 1966, called for launches of two Saturn IB vehicles about one day apart; the first unmanned, the second manned. The astronauts would make the S-IVB stage of the first vehicle habitable by installing equipment and introducing a life-supporting atmosphere in the stage's hydrogen tank so they could live and work there without the need for space suits. The hydrogen tank would be equipped before launching with two floors, some basic equipment, and an inner wall.

An Airlock Module (AM) would be attached to the S-IVB stage, and a Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) would provide the attaching point for the Command Module carrying the astronauts to the stage. The stage, the Airlock Module, and the Multiple Docking Adapter constituted this first concept of the Orbital Workshop.

This plan also introduced the "cluster concept" which envisioned additional components to be attached to the Workshop. A modified Lunar Module ascent stage (LM) of the kind that carried astronauts from the Moon's surface in the Apollo Program and an Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) would be launched together on one vehicle. The LM would be the control center for the ATM in orbit. This first launch would be followed by a manned launch. Lunar ascent stage and ATM would be attached to the Workshop at a docking port on the side of the Multiple Docking Adapter. The Command and Service Module with the astronauts would dock at the end of the docking port of the MDA.

This Workshop was called the "Wet Workshop" because the S-IVB stage to be used for the Workshop would be launched "wet," that is, filled with fuel to be consumed before reaching orbit. The empty hydrogen tank would be purged of remaining fuel and then filled with a life-supporting atmosphere.

In March, 1967, it was decided that the Orbital Workshop would have solar panels to produce electric power. This increase in electric power production was required as a result of astronauts living in the Workshop. Before this change was made, the Command and Service Module was planned to provide the Workshop's power except for the Apollo Telescope Mount which was to have its own solar-electric power supply.

Limited funds for the Apollo Applications Program led to a reduction of the number of launches and the extension of launch dates further into the future.

A major redirection of the Apollo Applications Program effort was made on July 22, 1969, six days after the- first lunar landing. NASA announced plans to launch the Workshop and an elaborate Apollo Telescope Mount together on a two-stage Saturn V. The S-IVB (third) stage would not carry any fuel (hence the term "Dry Workshop") but would be completely equipped on the ground as a habitable system to be entered by the astronauts in orbit. This decision was aided by the successful lunar landing which made Saturn V launch vehicles available for other purposes.

[9] Plans for two Saturn V launches with two Workshops and two ATM's, and for seven Saturn IB launches, were announced in 1969. The first Workshop launch was planned for July 1972.

The program was renamed on February 24, 1970, when the Apollo Application Program became the Skylab Program. The Skylab cluster was to consist of the S-IVB Orbital Workshop, Airlock, Multiple Docking Adapter, and Apollo Telescope Mount. Early in 1971, the planning date for the launch was set for April 30, 1973.

The Skylab Program Office in the Office of Manned Space Flight in NASA Headquarters is responsible for overall management of the program (Fig. 4). The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) at Huntsville, Alabama, has responsibility for developing and integrating most of the major components of the Skylab including the Orbital Workshop, Airlock Module, Multiple Docking Adapter, Apollo Telescope Mount, Payload Shroud, and most of the experiments. Further, MSFC has overall systems engineering and integration responsibility to assure the compatibility and integration of all system components for each flight. During and after the Skylab mission operations, MSFC will provide support for launch and flight operations. MSFC is also responsible for the Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles.

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center ( JSC ) at Houston, Texas, is responsible for flight operations, recovery, crew selection and training, assigned experiments, and development of the modified Command and Service Modules and the Spacecraft Launch Adapter (SLA). In addition,


Figure 4. Management responsibilities for Skylab Program. [small picture- it's a link to a larger picture on a separate page]

Figure 4. Management responsibilities for Skylab Program.


...JSC developed crew systems, medical equipment, food, and other crew-supporting components, and provided for stowage in the CSM of experiment data and samples to be returned from orbit. JSC also is responsible for overall mission analysis and evaluation, particularly from the viewpoint of crew performance.

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida is responsible for launch facilities for all Skylab flights, checkout procedures, and the planning and execution of launch operations, two of them within 24 hours.

Most of the design and manufacturing for Skylab was done by a large number of industrial companies under contract either directly to NASA, or as subcontractors to one of the major contractors. Fig. 5 shows the major Skylab contracts managed by NASA Centers. However, an extremely close cooperation between NASA, scientific investigators, and industry, extending over all levels of the program structure, existed from the beginning of the project. In fact, the work teams were so tightly integrated that it often would have been difficult to differentiate within these teams between contractors, NASA members, and university-type scientists as the project proceeded from its early concepts through development, manufacturing, testing, final assembly, and checkout.


Figure 5. Major Skylab contractors. [small picture- it's a link to a greater picture on separate page]

Figure 5. Major Skylab contractors.