SP-4011 Skylab: A Chronology


[3] PART I: Early Space Station Activities -1923 through July 1965


a. 1923 to December 1962.
b. January 1963 to July 1965.



- 1923 -


Hermann Oberth published Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Planetary Space), which contained the first serious proposal for a manned space station to appear in scientific literature rather than fiction. Oberth's study presented to the scientific community a broad treatise on the practicability and scientific value not only of manned permanent stations in orbit above the Earth, but also space flight in general. Oberth suggested a permanent station supplied by smaller rockets on a periodic basis and suggested rotation of the vehicle to produce an artificial gravity for the crew. Such a station, he said, could serve as a base for Earth observations, as a weather forecasting satellite, as a communications satellite, and as a refueling station for extraterrestrial vehicles launched from orbit.

Translation of Hermann Oberth's Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen, Verlag von R. Oldenbourg, Munich and Berlin, 1923.


- 1928 -


Writing in the monthly journal Die Rakete, Baron Guido von Pirquet presented broad arguments in favor of the scientific possibility of manned space travel and the velocities required for orbital and interplanetary flight, of which orbital speed was by far the more difficult to attain. Von Pirquet suggested several different space stations for diverse functions: one in a near-Earth orbit as primarily an observation site and another station in a much higher orbit that would be more suitable as an orbital refueling station for escape vehicles.

Translation of Guido von Pirquet's article "Fahrtrouten" in Die Rakete, 2. Jahrgang, Breslau, Deutschland, 1928.


Hermann Noordung (the pseudonym for Captain Potocnik of the Austrian Imperial Army) published Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums (The Problem of Space Flight), which included one of the first serious attempts to put on paper the design of a manned space station. Noordung's proposed design consisted of a doughnut-shaped structure for living quarters, a power generating station attached to one end of the central hub, and an astronomical observation [4] station. He was among the first to suggest a wheel-shaped design for a space station to produce artificial gravity, and also argued the scientific value of such a station in a synchronous orbit above the Earth.

Hermann Noordung, Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums, 1928.


- 1929 -


Hermann Oberth published Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, in which he greatly elaborated on ideas presented in his 1923 book. Oberth here presented several specific designs for orbital space stations, ranging from spherical living quarters for the crew to large reflective mirrors fabricated in orbit. Among several innovations were methods for fabrication in orbit, propulsion by particle emission, and small ferry vehicles to permit travel in the vicinity of the station. Such stations could be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from scientific observation sites to military installations.

Translation of Hermann Oberth's Wege zur Raumschiffahrt, Verlag von R. Oldenbourg, Munich and Berlin, 1929.


- 1945 -


In a summary of his work on rockets during World War II, Wernher von Braun speculated on the potential and future uses of rocket power and space vehicles. Von Braun prophesied large scientific observatories in space, the construction of space stations in orbit, and interplanetary travel, beginning with manned flights to the Moon.

Wernher von Braun, "Survey of the Development of Liquid Rockets in Germany and their Future Prospects," in F. Zwicky, Report on Certain Phases of War Research in Germany, Headquarters Air Materiel Command Report No. F-SW-3 RE, January 1947, pp. 38-42.


- 1946 -



The Army Air Forces established Project RAND at the Santa Monica, California, plant of Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc. On 12 May, Project RAND, which had studied supersonic aircraft, guided missiles, and satellite applications, released a report on "Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Space Ship" that argued the technical feasibility of building and operating an artificial Earth satellite.

Eugene M. Emme, Aeronautics and Astronautics: An American Chronology of Science and Technology in the Exploration of Space, 1915-1960, Washington, D.C., 1961, p. 53; U.S. Congress, House, Military Astronautics (Preliminary Report): Report of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, House Report 360, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 4 May 1961, p. 2.


May 2

Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., completed an engineering study on the feasibility of designing a man-carrying satellite. The study showed that if a vehicle could be accelerated to a speed of 27 360 km per hr and aimed properly it would revolve on a circular orbit above the Earth's atmosphere as a new satellite. Such a vehicle would make a complete circuit of the Earth approximately every hour and a half. However, it would not pass over the same ground [5] stations on successive circuits because the Earth would make about a one-sixteenth turn for each circuit of the satellite. Two fuels were considered in the study: hydrogen-oxygen and alcohol- oxygen. The liquid alcohol-hydrogen had been used to propel the German V-2 rockets. The use of either fuel to orbit a man-made satellite, the study showed, would require the use of a multistage vehicle. The study also indicated that maximum acceleration and temperatures could be kept within limits safe for man. The vehicle envisioned would be used in obtaining scientific information on cosmic rays, gravitation, geophysics, terrestrial magnetism, astronomy, and meteorology.

Douglas Aircraft Co., Report No. SM-11827, Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, 2 May 1946.


- 1948 -


November 13

In a paper presented to the British Interplanetary Society, H. E. Ross described a manned satellite station in Earth orbit that would serve as an astronomical and zero-gravity and vacuum research laboratory. (Ross' bold suggestions also included schemes for a manned landing on the Moon and return to Earth through use of the rendezvous technique in Earth orbit and about the Moon.) Ross' suggested design comprised a circular structure that housed the crew of the space laboratory (numbering 24 specialists and support personnel) as well as telescopes and research equipment. The station, he suggested, could be resupplied with oxygen and other life-support essentials by supply ships launched every three months.

H. E. Ross, "Orbital Bases," Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 8, 1949, pp. 1-7.



- 1949-1952 -


Awakening public interest in the United States and in Europe was manifested by publication in September 1949 of The Conquest of Space by Willy Ley. Ley featured detailed descriptions of orbital space stations and manned flights to the Moon and back as part of man's quest to conquer the frontier of space. The First Symposium on Space Flight was held 12 October 1951 at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Papers read at the Symposium were published in March 1952 by Collier's magazine under the title "Man Will Conquer Space Soon." Contributors were Wernher von Braun, Joseph Kaplan, Heinz Haber, Willy Ley, Oscar Schachter, and Fred L. Whipple. Topics ranged from manned orbiting space station) and orbiting astronomical observatories to problems of human survival in space, lunar space ventures, and questions of international law and sovereignty in space. Finally, Arthur C. Clarke's The Exploration of Space, first published in England in 1951 and a Book of the Month Club selection in America the following year, persuasively argued the case for orbital space stations and manned lunar and planetary space expeditions, popularizing the notion of space flight in general.

Willy Ley, The Conquest of Space, 1959; "Man Will Conquer Space Soon," Collier's, 22 March 1952, pp. 22-36, 65-67, 70-72, 74; Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space, 1952.


- 1951 -



[6] At the second annual congress of the International Astronautical Federation in London, H. H. Koelle described "Die Aussenstation" as part of a paper on "Der Einfluss der Konstruktiven Gestaltung der Aussenstation auf die Gesamtkosten des Projektes (The Influence of the Layout of the Satellite on the Overall Cost of the Project)." Koelle's paper represented the most realistic appraisal so far of the problems of design and construction of a space station. He dealt with problems of payload limitation, orbital assembly, limitations on the crew in the space environment, and national and economic factors behind space station growth. In Koelle's view, such a station might be used for scientific investigations of Earth's upper atmosphere, weather observation, astrophysical research, and human and chemical research in a zero-gravity environment. Also, such a station might serve as a communications and navigation link with the ground and as a station for launching more distant space missions. He suggested a large circular structure consisting of 36 separate 5-m spheres arranged around a central hub, the whole structure rotating to provide an artificial gravity environment to offset physiological effects of prolonged weightlessness on the crew. One of the unique elements in Koelle's scheme was assembly of various parts of the station launched via separate rockets, with each segment being a complete structure. In this way the station could be made operational before fabrication was completed, and subsequent expansion of the structure could take place whenever desired. Total personnel complement of the station would range from 50 to 65 people. Koelle even estimated the cost of such a project: $518 million for construction and $620 million over an operational lifetime of six months.

John W. Massey, Historical Resume of Manned Space Stations, Army Ballistic Missile Agency Report No. DSP-TM-9 60, 15 June 1960, pp. 19- 26.


- 1954 -


In "Analysis of Orbital Systems," a paper read at the fifth congress of the International Astronautical Federation in Innsbruck, Austria, Krafft Ehricke described a four-man orbital station. Arguing that a very large space station was neither necessary nor desirable, Ehricke postulated a four-man design that might serve a number of different purposes, depending upon altitude and orbital inclination. He suggested that such a station might be used for a multitude of scientific research, for orbital reconnaissance, for an observation platform, and as a launch site for more distant space ventures. The station would be launched initially by a large multistaged booster and subsequently visited by crews and resupplied by means of smaller ferry rockets.

Ibid., pp. 28-31.


- 1958 -


May 20

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the Air Force signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles in the development and testing of the Air Force's Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyna Soar I). [7] The following principles would apply to the project: ( l ) The project would be conducted as a joint Air Force-NACA project. (2) Overall technical control of the project would rest with the Air Force, acting with the advice and assistance of NACA. (3) Financing of the design, construction, and Air Force test of the vehicles would be borne by the Air Force. (4) Management of the project would be conducted by an Air Force project office within the Directorate of Systems Management, Headquarters, Air Research and Development Command. NACA would provide liaison representation in the project office and provide the chairman of the technical team responsible for data transmission and research instrumentation. (5) Design and construction of the system would be conducted through a negotiated prime contractor. (6) Flight tests of the vehicle and related equipment would be accomplished by NACA, the USAF, and the prime contractor in a combined test program, under the overall control of a joint NACA-USAF committee chaired by the Air Force.

Memorandum of understanding, "Principles for Participation of NACA in Development and Testing of the 'Air Force System 464L Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyne Soar I),'" signed by Gen. Thomas D. White, Chief of Staff, USAF, 13 May 1958, and Hugh L. Dryden, Director NACA, 20 May 1958.


During the Year

In 1958, the year after Sputnik 1, Krafft Ehricke, then with General Dynamics' Convair Division, designed a four-man space station known as Outpost. Ehricke proposed that the Atlas ICBM being developed by Convair could be adapted as the station's basic structure. The Atlas, 3 m in diameter and 22.8 m long, was America's largest rocket at the time.

Dave Dooling, "The Evolution of Skylab," Spaceflight, January 1974, p. 20.



early 2 man spacecraft design drawing

A 1958 spacecraft design concept for a two-man orbiting laboratory prepared by H. Kurt Strass and Caldwell C. Johnson of NASA's Space Task Group at Langley Field, Virginia.


- 1959 -


[8] February 20

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden and DeMarquis D. Wyatt, Assistant to the Director of Space Flight Development, described the long-range objectives of the agency's space program: a multimanned orbiting space station; a permanent manned orbiting laboratory; unmanned lunar probes; and manned lunar orbital, lunar-landing, and-ultimately-interplanetary flight.

U.S. Congress, Senate, NASA Authorization Subcommittee of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Supplemental Authorization for Fiscal Year 1959: Hearings on S.1096, 86th Cong., 1st sess., 1959, pp. 46, 81.


April 1

John W. Crowley, Director of Aeronautical and Space Research, appointed Harry J. Goett of the Ames Research Center to head a Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight to assist Headquarters in long-range planning and basic research on manned space flight. Composed of representatives from the field centers as well as Headquarters, members of the Goett Committee (as it was called) met for the first time on 25-26 May. From the outset, they agreed to concentrate on the long-range objectives of NASA's man-in-space program, including supporting research required, coordinating the research efforts of the various field centers, and recommending specific research projects and vehicle development programs.

The most important task facing the Goett Committee was the issue of a flight program to follow Mercury. H. Kurt Strass of the Space Task Group (STG) at Langley Field, Virginia (the field element that subsequently evolved into the Manned Spacecraft Center), described some preliminary ideas of STG planners regarding a follow-on to Mercury: (1) an enlarged Mercury capsule to place two men in orbit for three days; (2) a two-man Mercury capsule and a large cylindrical structure to support a two-week mission. (In its 1960 budget, NASA had requested $2 million to study methods of constructing a manned orbiting laboratory or converting the Mercury spacecraft into a two-man laboratory for extended space missions.)

Memorandum, John W. Crowley to Dist., "Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight," 1 April 1959; "Minutes, Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight," 25-26 May 1959, pp. 1-2, 6-9; U.S. Congress, House, Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Appropriations: Hearings, 86th Cong., 1st sess., 1959, pp. 42-45.


April 24

DeMarquis D. Wyatt, Assistant to the Director of Space Flight Development, testified before Congress in support of NASA's request for $3 million in Fiscal Year 1960 for research on techniques and problems of space rendezvous. Wyatt explained that logistic support for a manned space laboratory, a possible post-Mercury flight program, depended upon resolving several key problems and making rendezvous in orbit practical. Among key problems he cited were establishment of methods for fixing the relative positions of two objects in space; development of accurate target acquisition devices to enable supply craft to locate the space station; development of guidance systems to permit precise determination [9] of flight paths; and development of reliable propulsion systems for maneuvering in orbit.

U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics and Subcommittees Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, 1960 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 6512, 86th Cong., 1st sess., 1959, pp. 97, 170, 267-68.


June 8

In a Project Horizon report, Wernher von Braun, then with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, advanced a theory that he had conceived years earlier for using a booster's spent stage as a space station's basic structure. This later evolved into the "wet stage" concept for the Skylab Program.

Project Horizon, Phase I Report: A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Military Outpost, Vol. II, pp. 127- 130.


June 25-26

Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., of Langley Research Center, presented to the Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight a report on a projected manned space station. During subsequent discussion, Committee Chairman Harry J. Goett stated that considerations of space stations and orbiting laboratories should be an integral part of coordinated planning for a lunar landing mission. George M. Low of NASA Hq warned that care must be exercised that each successive step in space be taken with an eye toward the principal objective (i.e., lunar landing) because the number of steps that realistically could be funded and attempted was extremely limited. (Subsequently, Low s thinking and the recommendations of the Research Steering Committee were influential in shifting the planning focus of NASA's manned space program away from ideas of large space stations and laboratories and toward lunar flight and the Apollo program.

"Minutes, Research Steering Committee on Manned Space Flight, 25-26 June 1959," p. 6.


July 10

E. C. Braley and L. K. Loftin, Jr., sponsored a conference at LaRC to focus study at the Center on placing a manned space station in Earth orbit. Participants at the conference aimed at concentrating research efforts on developing the technology to build, launch, and operate such a station. Braley, Loftin, and others envisioned several purposes of such a space station: (1) to study the physical and psychological reactions of man in the space environment for extended periods of time, as well as his capabilities and usefulness during such missions; (2) to study materials, structures, and control systems for extended-duration space vehicles, and means for communication, orbit control, and rendezvous in space; and (3) to evaluate various techniques for terrestrial and astronomical observation and how man's unique abilities could enhance those techniques in space. Participants envisioned this Langley study project as an initial step toward landing men on the Moon some 10 to 15 years later.

Memorandum, Beverly Z. Henry, Jr., to Associate Director, "Langley Manned Space Laboratory Effort," 5 October 1959.



[10] Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc., was visited by a representative of the London Daily Mail newspaper who was visiting several companies to collect ideas for space stations. The Daily Mail held a highly promoted public exhibition each year called the "London Daily Mail Home Show," and wanted to have "A Home in Space" as the theme for the 1959 show. Douglas offered to do a full design study (including mockup details) for him, and after visiting several other companies he returned and informed Douglas they had won the "competition." W. Nissim of the Douglas Advanced Design Section was given a budget of $10 000 with which he turned out a technical report, mockup drawings, and posters to be used in the show. The full-scale mockup was built and exhibited in London in 1959. The basic concept was identical to the original Saturn "Wet Workshop" but was not connected to any projected launch vehicle. A hydrogen-fueled stage was chosen simply because it offered a larger usable volume. Several concepts for detailed equipment and techniques adopted for later programs were originally developed for this study.

Douglas Aircraft Co., Report No. SM 36173, London Daily Mail Astronomical Space Observatory, November 1959; memorandum, Joe Tschirgi, McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., MDAC, to Walt Cleveland, MDAC, 4 April 1973.


- 1960 -



The London Daily Mail presented the Space Vehicle at its 1960 Ideal Home Exhibition, and an estimated 150 000 to 200 000 people passed through the vehicle.

The following is extracted from the 1960 exhibition catalog:

Based on designs developed by Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc., Santa Monica, CA, the Space Vehicle which rears its 62 feet [19 m] length from the well high into the roof of the Empire Hall will he seen suspended as it would be in flight so that visitors may see, for the first time in history, a full- sized replica of a Space Ship of the future. It measures 17 feet [5 m] across and visitors can walk through it from the First Floor of the Empire Hall and inspect it in detail.

Those who do so should assume that they are aboard in the second stage of a two-stage vehicle. After take-off the first stage burns out at an altitude of 200,000 feet [60960 m]; the second at a height of approximately 250 miles [400 km] above sea level.

Once in orbit, in gravity free space, the Space Vehicle is pointed towards the sun and is kept in that position on its course. Its mission is to map stellar space unhindered by atmospheric conditions which prevail below, to make spectroscope observations and to obtain other astronomical data, all of which are telemetered directly to earth stations.

The crew of four men make their ascent in the nose cone (in which they also reenter the atmosphere and return to earth). Once in orbit they move down from the cone into the central column, blow out the fuel chamber--which is to be their working and living quarters-and set up their equipment which has been stored in the area between nose and tank.

The sheathing, which covers their part of the Vehicle, opens up into four petals which have sun batteries on their inner surfaces. These provide 5 kw of power to drive the electrical equipment. Inside the sheathing, telescopes, radio antennae [11] and other gear all stand during ascent. Working in space suits the team assemble this equipment, transfer stores, and are soon ready to set up their space routine.

Each man takes his watch. Actually during the twenty-four hours each member of the crew does approximately eight hours on duty, has eight hours for sleep and eight hours free for exercise, meals and recreation. While on duty, the crew control the transmission of their observations to earth and keep watch on the temperature and atmospheric conditions within the Space Vehicle.

The blue and white stripes on the outside of the vehicle are designed to absorb (white) and re-radiate (blue) the sun's heat (which in space is very great) and maintain a temperature of about 72 degrees fahrenheit [295 K] within the working quarters.

The atmospheric conditions within the Vehicle are created from oxygen and nitrogen supplies and pressurised to simulate an environment of 10,000 feet [3000 m]. Air breathed out by the crew (CO2) is absorbed in special containers.

Visitors who go through the Vehicle should realise that the crew, in a gravity-free condition, have no "floor" or "ceiling." They would be able to work equally easily in any position. The Vehicle on exhibit at the Exhibition shows one of the crew at work on a telescope, in a space suit, outside the Vehicle. A second crew member will he seen inside the Vehicle, in his space suit, at the ready in case of emergency; a third man is relaxing, watching earth TV; a fourth is on duty at the control console.

In a gravity-free condition things remain where they are-only "restraint" straps are necessary to prevent "drifting."

When returning to earth, the crew go back to the re-entry Vehicle (the nose cone) in which they made their ascent. Here they fasten themselves into special seats. They then break the joints which attach them to the Space Vehicle and . . . align their vehicle so that its nose points in a direction [opposite] to that of their orbit. A small rocket motor is then fired which reduces their speed and they begin to sink into the upper atmosphere and come into the earth's gravitational pull. The re- entry vehicle is then flown earthwards, losing speed and finally, at a predetermined height, a large parachute opens automatically and the capsule floats down to the ground.

Letter, Trevor Smith, London Daily Mail, to Ivan D. Ertel, Historical Services and Consultants Company, 14 October 1974, with extract from 1960 Ideal Home Exhibition catalog.


April 20-22

The Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, NASA, and the RAND Corporation sponsored a Manned Space Stations Symposium featuring leading aeronautical and aerospace scientists and engineers from across the country. They examined the entire subject from present planning and future steps through engineering feasibility, operational techniques, designs, costs, and utilitarian considerations. This conference marked one of the focal points in American space station thinking up to that time.

"Proceedings of the Manned Space Stations Symposium," Los Angeles, California, 20-22 April 1960.



exploded view drawing of a space station

early drawing of a spacestation

The architectural plans drawn for the 1960 Ideal Home Exhibition in Empire Hall, London, showing three views of the mockup space station.- Drawings courtesy of the London Daily Mail.


image of a man at a spaceatation console and of an astronaut outside his spacecraft

Two photographs of the 1960 Ideal Home Exhibition in London: At left, a "crewman" is at the control panel that operates the battery of space telescopes. Note his "shirt-sleeve" clothing. At right, a space-suited "crewman" is outside the space station working on one of the telescopes. Photos courtesy of the London Daily Mail.


May 16-17

Representatives from the various NASA Field Centers and Headquarters attended a conference on space rendezvous held at LaRC under the chairmanship of Bernard Maggin. The participants reviewed current Center research programs on space rendezvous and exchanged ideas on future projects. Many of the studies already in progress involved the idea of a space ferry and rendezvous with a station in cislunar space. Although as yet NASA had no funding for a rendezvous flight test program, consensus of those at this conference held that rendezvous would be essential in future manned space programs and that the Centers should undertake experiments to establish its feasibility and to develop various rendezvous techniques.

Inter-NASA Research and Development Centers Discussion on Space Rendezvous, LaRC, 16-17 May 1960.


- 1961 -


January 5-6

McDonnell Aircraft Corporation officials proposed to NASA a one-man space station consisting of a Mercury capsule and a cylindrical space laboratory capable of supporting one astronaut in a shirt- sleeve environment for 14 days in orbit. The complete vehicle, McDonnell said, could be placed in a 240-km orbit by an Atlas-Agena booster, thus affording NASA what the company termed a "minimum cost manned space station."

McDonnell Aircraft Corp., One Man Space Station, 24 August 1960 (rev. 28 October 1960)


May 5

A NASA Hq working group headed by Bernard Maggin completed a staff study recommending an integrated research, development, and applied orbital operations program through 1970 at an approximate cost of $1 billion. In its report, the group identified three broad categories of orbital operations: inspection, ferry, and orbital launch. Maggin and company reasoned that future space programs...



Rene A. Berglund's concept drawing of an inflatable space laboratory

In October 1960 Rene A. Berglund of Langley Research Center's Space Station Office prepared the spacecraft design concept of an inflatable space laboratory based on the Mercury spacecraft.


[16] ...required the capability for such orbital operations and recommended that a development program, coordinated with the Department of Defense, be undertaken immediately. Also, because of the size and scope of such a program, they recommended that it be independent of other space projects and that NASA create a separate administrative office to initiate and manage the program.

Memorandum, Bernard Maggin to Associate Administrator, "Staff Paper-'Guidelines for a Program for Manned and Unmanned Orbital Operations,'" 22 May 1961.


May 18-31

Space Task Group Director Robert R. Gilruth informed Ames Research Center that current planning for Apollo "A" called for an adapter between the Saturn second stage and the Apollo spacecraft to include, as an integral part, a section to be used as an orbiting laboratory. Preliminary in-house configuration designs indicated this laboratory would be a cylindrical section about 3.9 m in diameter and 2.4 m in height. The laboratory would provide the environment and facilities to conduct scientific experiments related to manned operation of spacecraft. Gilruth requested that Ames forward to STG descriptions of scientific experiments believed to be important to the development of manned space flights, together with a list of necessary support equipment requirements.

In response to the request from the STG, ARC Director Smith J. DeFrance suggested a series of experiments that might be conducted from an Earth-orbiting laboratory: astronomical observations; monitoring the Sun's activity; testing man's ability to work outside the vehicle; zero-g testing; and micrometeoroid impact study. DeFrance noted that all of these experiments could be performed in the lunar mission module part of the Apollo space vehicle with little or no design modification.

Letters, Robert R. Gilruth to ARC, "Scientific experiments to be conducted in an orbiting laboratory," 18 May 1961; Smith J. DeFrance to STG, Attn: Apollo Project Office, "Suggestions for experiments to be conducted in an earth-orbiting scientific laboratory," 31 May 1961.



Emanuel Schnitzer of LaRC suggested a possible adaptation for existing Apollo hardware to create a space laboratory, which he termed an "Apollo X" vehicle. Schnitzer's concept involved using a standard Apollo command and service module in conjunction with an inflatable spheroid structure and transfer tunnel to create a space laboratory with artificial gravity potential. He argued the technical feasibility of such a scheme with minimal weight penalties on the basic Apollo system. (Although little apparently was done with his idea, Schnitzer's thinking, along with similar thoughts by many of his colleagues, created a fertile environment within NASA for the idea of adapting Apollo-developed space hardware to laboratories and space stations in Earth orbit.) In April 1962 Paul Hill, Chief of the Applied Materials and Physics Division, stated that structures were under study which could hold from 4 to 30 people.

Emanuel Schnitzer, Possible APOLLO "X" Inflatable Space Laboratory, October 1961; Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962, 12 June 1963, p. 64.




a design drawing of the possible use of Apollo as a space station, by H. Kurt Strass

This spacecraft design of the possible use of Apollo as a space station was prepared by H. Kurt Strass of Space Task Group in the fall of 1961.


- 1962 -



MSC designers and planners prepared a preliminary document that outlined areas of investigation for a space station study program (handled largely under the aegis of Edward H. Olling of the Spacecraft Research Division). Flight Operations Division Chief Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., urged that the study format be expanded to include such areas as the operational requirements for a ground support and control network, logistics vehicles, and space station occupied versus unoccupied intervals.

Memorandum, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., to Edward H. Olling, "Rough Draft of Space Station Study Document," 1 May 1962, with enclosure, "Proposed Revision."


May 10

John C. Fischer, Jr., an aerospace technologist at Lewis Research Center, put forward a plan for a two- phased approach for a space station program. The more immediate step, involving launching a manned and fully equipped station into orbit, would span some four to six years. Such a station would allow investigation of stationkeeping, rotation of personnel in orbit through supply and ferry craft, and replacement of modules in orbit through modular construction. The second and more sophisticated phase of a space station program, evolving from the earlier [18] step, envisioned injection of an unmanned inflatable structure into orbit which would then be manned and resupplied by ferry vehicles (using hardware and techniques developed under the earlier phase of such a program). This more sophisticated approach included artificial gravity (eliminating many human and hardware-design problems of long periods of zero-g); gyroscopic stability of the platform (eliminating requirements for propellants to maintain the station's orientation in orbit); and supply vehicles designed for reentry and landing at selected airports (eliminating the expense of conventional recovery methods).

John C. Fischer, Jr., Brief Plan for Establishing an Orbital Manned Space Station, 10 May 1962.


May 23

Representatives from Avco Manufacturing Corporation made a presentation to MSC on a proposal for a space station. Prime purpose of the station, company spokesmen said, was to determine the effects of zero-g on the crew's ability to stand reentry and thus fix the limit that man could safely remain in orbit.

Avco's proposed station design comprised three separate tubes about 3 m in diameter and 6 m long, launched separately aboard Titan IIs and joined in a triangular shape in orbit. A standard Gemini spacecraft was to serve as ferry vehicle.

Memorandum, K. J. Allen, MSC, to Chief, Flight Operations Div., "Presentation by Avco on Space Stations," 23 May 1962.


July 31- August 1

A symposium held at LaRC, attended by NASA people interested in space station work, provided a forum for Langley researchers to report on progress on some of the more significant aspects of the Center's work in the space station area. (A general research program to explore the technical problems of large rotating manned spacecraft had been under way at the Center for some time.) Various researchers emphasized that such investigations were exploratory in nature, since there existed no NASA-approved program for the development and operation of such a spacecraft. The dozen papers presented at the symposium encompassed objectives and research guidelines for a space station; preliminary research...


concept drawing of the foldable Y-shaped space station

The first radial, integral-launch space station was based on some ideas of H. Kurt Strass at Langley Research Center about November 1961 and designed by Willard M. Taub at MSC in June 1962 for Charles W. Mathews. Later, it became known as the foldable Y-shaped space station.


[19] ....configurations; structural requirements; power, life-support, and thermal-control systems; materials requirements and fabrication techniques; operational considerations; structural and dynamic compatibility between station and launch vehicle; and crew performance.

NASA Technical Note D-1504, by LaRC Staff, "A Report on the Research and Technological Problems of Manned Rotating Spacecraft," August 1962.


August 20

The Department of Defense announced plans to develop a Titan III launch vehicle powered by both solid and liquid fuel rocket motors with a total thrust of over 11 million newtons (2.5 million Ibs). .Scheduled to become operational in 1965, the Titan III would be used to launch the Air Force's X-20 (Dyna Soar) manned spacecraft, as well as heavy unmanned military satellites. Martin Marietta Corporation had been selected as prime contractor for the project, at an estimated cost of between $500 million and $1 billion. At a news conference the following day, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara cited the Titan III as a major step toward overtaking the Soviet Union in various phases of military space development.

Washington Post, 21 August 1962; DOD Release 1367-62.


September 11

MSC aerospace technologists William G. Davis and Robert L. Turner compiled a description of scientific and support instrumentation that would be required aboard a manned space station. Such equipment comprised basically three areas: (1) support and laboratory instrumentation, including those systems required for crew safety and scientific experiments; (2) scientific instrumentation, primarily for study of a true space environment on different spacecraft systems and materials and for advancement of scientific knowledge of space; and (3) the power system for a space station (wherein the pair compared the relative merits of 400-cycle alternating current versus 28-volt direct current power sources).

Memorandum, William G. Davis and Robert L. Turner, MSC, to E. R. Diemer, MSC, "Scientific and Support Instrumentation for a Manned Space Station," 11 September 1962.


September 28

A meeting to discuss space-station-related work during 1963 was held in Washington between people from the Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), the Office of Advanced Research and Technology (OART), and the three Centers most involved in such work, MSC, MSFC, and LaRC. Although the timing for a space station project was far from firm, all agreed that the concept was important and that advanced technological work must proceed at the Centers in order to present top management with information on such a program when appropriate.

Douglas Lord of OMSF noted that funding for space station research and study contracts was limited because of an "understandable preoccupation" with the Apollo program, noting that for 1963 OMSF was allowing $2.2 million to MSC...



an illustration of six design ideas for the space station

illustration of a spacestation composed of 4 independent sections

During 1962, while the Apollo spacecraft design was still in the definition stage and a mode for the lunar landing had not yet been chosen, other activities were being pursued on a smaller scale. One such activity was planning for for future programs. NASA Centers, the Air Force, and many of the major aerospace contractors were developing possible space station concepts and studying their potential uses. Some of those concepts, most in consideration at that time, are shown on these facing pages. The variety seems to indicate that aerospace engineers, given the opportunity and challenge, can come up with a number of seemingly far-reaching configurations, all of which might achieve the desired result.


[22] ....and $300 000 to MSFC for contractor-related studies, compared to DART's funding to LaRC of $800 000.

Maxime A. Faget stated that MSC was revising some of its earlier plans for space station studies to include a thorough operational analysis so that rational costbased decisions could be made in 1964. He observed that cost would be a very important-if not the most important-factor in any early space station program decision, thus dictating a simple design for the vehicle.

Clint Brown, representing Langley, agreed with Faget's views and announced that LaRC had reorganized its original space station steering group and had reoriented and broadened their conceptual design studies, with greater emphasis upon simplicity of configuration and system design. Although Brown and Faget disagreed on the principal justification for a space station program (Faget viewed it as a support for a future manned flight to Mars, while Brown argued primarily its usefulness as a research laboratory for a variety of NASA research elements), both agreed on the desirability of bringing all of the Agency's Program Offices (such as the Office of Space Science and Applications) into the planning picture. All the participants at this meeting agreed that a paramount objective for immediate planning was to define program objectives for a space station-what roles it would fill and what purposes it would be designed to accomplish.

Memorandum, W. E. Stoney, NASA Hq, to R. L. Bisplinghoff, NASA Hq, "OARTOMSF and Center Meeting on Space Station Studies," 5 October 1962.


October 17

Joseph F. Shea, Deputy Director for Systems, Office of Manned Space Flight, solicited suggestions from each of the Headquarters' Program Offices and the various NASA Centers on the potential uses and experiments for a manned space station. Such ideas, Shea explained, would help determine whether adequate justification existed for such a space laboratory, either as a research center in space or as a functional satellite. Preliminary studies already conducted, he said, placed such spacecraft within the realm of technology feasibility, and, if a decision were made to go ahead with such a project, NASA could conceivably place a station in Earth orbit by about 1967. Shea emphasized, however, that any such decision depended to a great extent on whether adequate justification existed for a space station. In seeking out ideas from within the agency, Shea called for roles, configurations, system designs, and specific scientific and engineering uses and requirements, emphasizing (1) the importance of a space station program to science, technology, or national goals; and (2) the unique characteristics of such a station and why such a program could not be accomplished by using Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, or unmanned spacecraft. Finally, he stated that general objectives currently envisioned for a station were as a precursor to manned planetary missions and for broad functional and scientific roles.

Memorandum, Joseph F. Shea to Dist., "Definition of Potential Applications for Manned Space Station," 17 October 1962.


[23] December 12

Owen E. Maynard, Head of MSC's Spacecraft Integration Branch, reported on his preliminary investigation of the feasibility of modifying Apollo spacecraft systems to achieve a 100-day Earth- orbital capability. His investigation examined four basic areas: (1) mission, propulsion, and flight time; (2) rendezvous, reentry, and landing; (3) human factors; and (4) spacecraft command and communications. Although modifications to some systems might be extensive- and would involve a considerable weight increase for the vehicle-such a mission using Apollo hardware was indeed feasible.

Memorandum, Owen E. Maynard to Chief, Spacecraft Technology Div., "Systems Investigation of a 100-Day Earth Orbital Operation for Apollo," 12 December 1962, with enclosure, same subject.


December 15

MSC researchers compiled a preliminary statement of work for a manned space station study program in anticipation of study contracts to be let to industry for a supportive study. The study requirements outlined the general scope of such investigations and suggested guidelines for research areas such as configurations, onboard spacecraft systems, and operational techniques. Ideally, studies by aerospace companies would help NASA formulate a logical approach for a space station program and how it might be implemented. Throughout the study, an overall objective would be simplicity: no artificial gravity and maximum use of existing launch vehicles and spacecraft systems to achieve the earliest possible launch date.

MSC, General Requirements for a Study Proposal for a "Zero-Gravity" Manned Orbital Laboratory, 15 December 1962.


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