SP-4011 Skylab: A Chronology


[23] PART I: Early Space Station Activities- 1923 through July 1965 (continued)


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



- 1963 -


January 22

Addressing an Institute of Aerospace Science meeting in New York, George von Tiesenhausen, Chief of Future Studies at NASA's Launch Operations Center, stated that by 1970 the United States would need an orbiting space station to launch and repair spacecraft. The station could also serve as a manned scientific laboratory. In describing the 91-m-long, 10-m-diameter structure, von Tiesenhausen said that the station could be launched in two sections using Saturn C-5 vehicles. The sections would be joined once in orbit.

Future Studies Branch Activities Report, Fiscal Year 1963, TR-4-17-3-D, 19 August 1963, p. 31.


March 1

MSC proposed building a manned space station using hardware already under development for the Apollo program. MSC's plan called for an orbiting station with a capacity for 18 crewmen. Manning would be accomplished through successive flights of six-man, modified Apollo-type spacecraft that would rendezvous with the station in orbit.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963, pp. 77-78; Baltimore Sun, 2 March 1963.


March 4

Testifying before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden described the Agency's studies of post-Apollo [24] space projects. Among "obvious candidates," Dryden cited a manned Earth-orbiting laboratory, which was a prerequisite for manned reconnaissance of the planets. Many preliminary design studies of the technological feasibility of a large space laboratory had been made, Dryden said. But technical feasibility alone could not justify a project of such magnitude and cost. "We are attempting to grasp the problem from the other end," he said, ". . . to ask what one can and would do in a space laboratory in specific fields of science and technology with a view to establishing a realistic and useful concept.... The program must be designed to fulfill national needs."

U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics, 1964 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 5466 (Superseded by H.R. 7500), 88th Cong., 1st sess., 4-5 March 1963, p. 20.


March 28

Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., asked Abraham Hyatt of Headquarters to organize a task team to study the concept of a Manned Earth Orbiting Laboratory.

Seamans pointed out that such a laboratory was under consideration by several government agencies and that NASA and the Department of Defense were at that time supporting a number of advanced feasibility studies. He said that such a laboratory bore a very heavy interrelationship between manned space flight, space sciences, and advanced research and technology and that NASA's top management was faced with the decision whether to initiate hardware development. Hyatt's aft's team thus must examine broadly the needs of an orbiting laboratory from NASA's viewpoint, as well as that of outside agencies, and the operational and scientific factors impinging on any possible decision to undertake hardware development.

Memorandum, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Dist., "Special Task Team for Manned Earth Orbiting Laboratory Study," 28 March 1963.


April 11

Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., John D. Hodge, and William L. Davidson of MSC's light Operations Division met at Langley with a large contingent of that Center's research staff to discuss LaRC's proposed Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL). Langley spokesmen briefed their Houston visitors on the philosophy and proposed program phases leading to an operational MORL. Kraft and his colleagues then emphasized the need for careful study of operational problems involved with the MORL, as well as those associated with the smaller crew ferry and logistics supply vehicles. Specifically, they cited crew selection and training requirements, the need for a continuous recovery capability, communications requirements, and handling procedures for scientific data.

Memorandum, William L. Davidson to Chief, Flight Operations Div., "Notes on Langley Research Center's (LaRC) Proposed Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL)," 18 April 1963.


[25] June 1

MSC announced two space station study contracts to compare concepts for a 24-man orbital laboratory: one with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and another with Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., Missiles and Space Systems Division. The stations were to be designed for a useful orbital lifetime of about five years, with periodic resupply and crew rotations.

Douglas Aircraft Co., Report SM 45878, Douglas Orbital Laboratory Studies, January 1964.


June 20

In a meeting with a number of people from MSC's Spacecraft Technology and Instrumentation and Electronic Systems Divisions, J. E. Clair from Bendix Eclipse-Pioneer Division gave a progress report on the company's study of stabilization techniques for high-resolution telescopes aboard manned space vehicles (work done under a contract awarded 9 November 1962). In part, MSC's purpose w as to ensure that Bendix's study reflect the Center's current definition of space stations. Clair and the MSC contingent explored a number of technical problems for different vehicle configurations, including pointing accuracy, fields of view, and physical location aboard the vehicle.

Memorandum, R. L. LaBlanc, MSC, to Deputy Chief, Instrumentation and Electronic Systems Div., "Conference with Bendix Eclipse-Pioneer Representatives on June 20, 1963," 17 July 1963.


June 24

LaRC Director Floyd L. Thompson announced that two aerospace firms, The Boeing Company of Seattle and Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., of Santa Monica, had been selected for final negotiations for study contracts of a Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL) concept. Results of the comparative studies would contribute to NASA s research on ways to effectively use man in space. Although no officially approved project for an orbital laboratory existed at the time, research within the agency over the past several years had developed considerable technology applicable to multimanned vehicles and had fostered much interest in such a project. Langley's MORL, concept envisioned a four-man Workshop with periodic crew change and resupply, with at least one crew performing a year-long mission to evaluate the effect of weightlessness during long-duration space flights.

Douglas Aircraft Co., Report No. SM 45878, Douglas Orbital Laboratory Studies, January 1964.


July 10

In a report to the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, Director of Manned Space Flight D. Brainerd Holmes and Air Force Undersecretary Brockway McMillan,, cochairmen of the Manned Space Flight Panel, set forth a number of recommendations for bringing about a closer coordination between NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD) in manned space station studies. Although some coordination between the two agencies already existed, direct contact was inadequate, especially at the technical level. Holmes requested all NASA program offices and those field centers involved in space station work to...



Rene A. Berglund with models of his modular space
station designs

Rene A. Berglund, Chief of MSC's Space Vehicle Design Branch, is shown with models of the modular space station he designed, for which he earned a cash award from the NASA Inventions and Contributions Panel in July 1963. The one on the right is the launch configuration for the orbital revision on the left.


...comply with the Panel's recommendations for thorough interchange of study work and information with DOD.

Memorandum, D. Brainerd Holmes to Dist., "NASA/DOD Coordination on Space Station Programs," 10 July 1963, with enclosure, "Report to the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board from the Manned Space Flight Panel."


July 16

At Seattle, five men began a 30-day engineering test of life support systems for a manned space station in The Boeing Company space chamber. The system, designed and built for NASA's Office of Advanced Research and Technology, was the nation's first to include all life-support equipment for a multimanned, long-duration space mission (including environmental control, waste disposal, and crew hygiene and food techniques). In addition to the life support equipment, a number of crew tests simulated specific problems of space flight.

Five days later, however, the simulated mission was halted because of a faulty reactor tank.

NASA News Release 63-155, "Thirty-Day Life Support System Being Tested for NASA," 16 July 1963; Cleveland Plain Dealer, 21 July 1963.


[27] July 30

At the request of NASA Hq, MSC contracted with North American to determine what engineering modifications to the basic Apollo spacecraft would be required to extend that vehicle's mission capabilities to a 100-day orbital lifetime. Although the study contract was handled chiefly by the Space Vehicle Design Branch of the Spacecraft Technology Division, Engineering and Development Director Maxime A. Faget requested that all elements of his directorate lend support as required to achieve a meaningful and useful effort, including in-house study efforts if needed. Also, Faget described the vehicle model that served as the basis for the study: a space laboratory for either a two or three-man crew; an orbital altitude of from 160 km to 480 km; an orbital staytime of about 100 days without resupply; and launch aboard a Saturn IB. He stated that two separate vehicles were under consideration, an Apollo command module and a command module and separate mission module to be used as living quarters.

Memorandum, Maxime A. Faget to Dist., "100-day Apollo, study support," 30 July 1963.


August 17 - September 14

NASA and the DOD concluded a joint agreement to coordinate all advanced space exploration studies and any actual programs undertaken in the area of a manned orbital research station. The two agencies agreed that, to the greatest extent possible, future requirements in this area should be encompassed in a single project.

"Agreement Between the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Covering a Possible New Manned Earth Orbital Research and Development Project"; NASA News Release 63 231, "NASA-DOD Agree on Common Approach to a Manned Orbital Research and Development Project," 17 October 1963.


October 9

A "flying carpet" escape system from orbital space stations had been proposed by Douglas Aircraft Company. The escape system would be a saucer shape that would expand into a blunt-nosed, cone- shaped vehicle 7.6 m across at its base. The vehicle would act as its own brake as it passed through the atmosphere. Reentry heating problems would be met by using fabrics woven with filaments of nickel-based alloys.

Space Business Daily, 9 October 1963, p. 52; Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963, p. 383.


October 18

NASA announced the selection of 14 new- astronauts: Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., William A. Anders, Charles A Bassett II, Michael Collins, Donn F. Eisele, Theodore C. Freeman, and David R. Scott from the Air Force; Alan L. Bean, Eugene A. Cernan, Roger B. Chaffee, and Richard F. Gordon, Jr., of the Navy; Clifton C. Williams, Jr., United States Marine Corps; and R. Walter Cunningham and Russell L. Sckweickart, civilians. This latest addition to the astronaut corps brought the total number of NASA astronauts to 30.

MSC News Release 63-180, 18 October 1963.


[28] October 31

The Director of Advanced Research and Technology, Raymond L. Bisplinghoff, asked the several field centers to conduct a thorough assessment of the potential utility of a manned orbiting laboratory to conduct scientific and technological research in space. To date, Bisplinghoff said, the prevailing view (based primarily on intuitive judgment) saw such research as one of the most important justifications for an orbital laboratory. An accurate assessment of its potential was essential so that, as a preliminary to undertaking such a project, any such decision would rationally examine whether such a project should be undertaken and what type of laboratory should be built.

Letter, Raymond L. Bisplinghoff, NASA Hq, to Dist., "Request for assistance in defining the scientific and technological research potential of a manned orbital laboratory," 31 October 1963.


November 24

North American issued the final report of its study for MSC on extended missions for the Apollo spacecraft. In stressing the supreme importance of man's role in the exploration of space-and the uncertainties surrounding the effects of prolonged exposure to the zero-gravity environment of space-the company suggested that an Earth-orbital laboratory would be an ideal vehicle for such long-term experimental evaluation, with missions exceeding a year's duration. The more immediate approach to meeting the demands for such missions was through modification of existing vehicle systems rather than the development of completely new space hardware. In the remainder of the report, the company gave detailed descriptions of how Apollo systems might be modified to meet the requirements of extended missions, ranging from the basic command and service module to a separate laboratory and habitable module with self-contained systems and life-support equipment. All such basic concepts were technically sound and could satisfy mission objectives with minimum costs and development time.

North American, SID Report 63-1370-12, Extended-Mission Apollo Study, Final Report, 24 November 1963, pp. 1-5, 19-20.


December 10

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced cancellation of the X-20 Dyna Soar project at a news briefing at the Pentagon. McNamara stated that fiscal resources thereby saved would be channeled into broader research on the problems and potential value of manned military operations in space, chiefly the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) project. These decisions on the X-20 and MOL had been discussed and coordinated with NASA, and, although the Air Force received responsibility for the MOL project, NASA would continue to provide technical support.

DOD News Briefing with Hon. Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, The Pentagon, 10 December 1963.


December 19

NASA Hq advised the centers regarding the agency's official position vis-a-vis the Defense Department's Manned Orbiting Laboratory project. Both NASA and DOD viewed MOL as a project designed to fulfill immediate military [29] requirements. The project could not be construed as meeting the much broader objectives and goals of a national space station program being studied by both organizations under post-Apollo research and development program policy agreements between NASA Administrator James E. Webb and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara (dated 14 September 1963).

TWX, NASA Hq to Dist., 19 December 1963.


December 26

MSFC Director Wernher von Braun described to Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager Joseph F. Shea a possible extension of Apollo systems to permit more extensive exploration of the lunar surface. Huntsville's concept, called the Integrated Lunar Exploration System, involved a dual Saturn V mission (with rendezvous in lunar orbit) to deliver an integrated lunar taxi/shelter spacecraft to the Moon's surface. Wernher von Braun stated that, though this concept was most preliminary, such a vehicle could bridge the gap between present Apollo capabilities and the longer term goal of permanent lunar bases. (Although this suggestion never found serious favor elsewhere within the agency, such thinking and ideas were indicative of speculation throughout NASA generally regarding possible applications of Apollo hardware to achieve other space goals once the paramount goal of a lunar landing was achieved.)

Letter, Wernher von Braun, MSFC, to Shea, MSC', 26 December 1963.


December 31

MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth apprised George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, of recent discussions with officers from the Air Force's Space Systems Division regarding MSC's joint participation in the MOL project in the area of operational control and support. Such joint cooperation might comprise two separate areas: manning requirements for the control center and staffing of actual facilities. Gilruth suggested that such joint cooperation would work to the benefit of both organizations involved. Furthermore, because a number of unidentified problems inevitably existed, he recommended the creation of a joint NASA Air Force group to study the entire question so that such uncertainties might be identified and resolved.

Letter, Robert R. Gilruth to George E. Mueller, NASA Hq, "Operational Support for the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory," 31 December 1963.



- 1964 -


[30] January 8

In an interview for Space Business Daily, Edward Z. Gray, Director of Advanced Studies in NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight, predicted that NASA's manned space station would be more sophisticated than the Defense Department's Manned Orbiting Laboratory. NASA had more than a dozen study projects under way, Gray said, that when completed would enable the agency to appraise requirements and pursue the best approach to developing such a space station.

Space Business Daily, 8 January 1964, p. 34.


January 10

James J. Haggerty, Jr., Space Editor for the Army-Navy-Air Force Journal and Register, called the assignment of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory to the Department of Defense "an ominous harbinger of a reversal in trend, an indication that the military services may play a more prominent role in future space exploration at NASA's expense.... Whether you label it development platform, satellite platform, satellite or laboratory, it is clearly intended as a beginning for space station technology. It is also clearly the intent of this administration that, at least in the initial stages, space station development shall be under military rather than civil cognizance...."

Army-Navy-Air Force Journal and Register, 11 January 1964, p. 10.


January 15

Following completion of feasibility studies of an extended Apollo system at MSC, Edward Z. Gray, Advanced Manned Missions Program Director at Headquarters, told MSC's Maxime A. Faget, Director of Engineering and Development, to go ahead with phase II follow-on studies. Gray presented guidelines and suggested tasks for such a study, citing his desire for two separate contracts to industry to study the command and service modules and various concepts for laboratory modules.

Letter, Edward Z. Gray to Maxime A. Faget, 15 January 1964, with enclosure, "Extended Apollo, Phase II."



In the wake of the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory project and the likelihood of NASA's undertaking some type of manned orbiting research laboratory, Director of Advanced Manned Missions Studies Edward Z. Gray sought to achieve within NASA a better understanding of the utility of such projects as a base for experiments in space. Accordingly, he created three separate working groups to deal with possible experiments in three separate categories: (l) big-medical, (2) scientific, and (3) engineering.

Memorandum, Edward Z. Gray, NASA Hq, to Wernher von Braun, MSFC, "Establishment of an Orbital Research h Laboratory Engineering Experiments Working Group," 3 March 1964.


February 26

The Lockheed-California Company released details of its recommendations to MSC on a scientific space station program. The study concluded that a manned station with a crew of 24 could be orbiting the Earth in 1968. Total cost of the program including logistics spacecraft and ground support was estimated at $2.6 billion for five years' operation. Lockheed's study recommended the use of a Saturn V to launch the unmanned laboratory into orbit and then launching a manned logistics vehicle to rendezvous and dock at the station.

MSC Roundup, 4 March 1964, p. 8.


March 12

Edward Z. Gray, Advanced Manned Missions Director in the Office of Manned Space Flight, asked LaRC Director Charles J. Donlan to prepare a Project [31] Development Plan for the Manned Orbital Research Laboratory, studies for which were already underway at the Center and under contract. This plan was needed as documentation for any possible decision to initiate an orbital research laboratory project. (Gray had also asked MSC to submit similar plans for an Apollo X, an Apollo Orbital Research Laboratory, and a Large Orbital Research Laboratory.) In addition to the Project Development Plan, Gray asked for system specifications for each candidate orbital laboratory system; both of these would form the basis for a project proposal with little delay "should a climate exist in which a new project can be started."

Letter, E.Z. Gray to C.J. Donlan, 12 March 1964.


During the month

A study to recommend, define, and substantiate a logical approach for establishing a rotating manned orbital research laboratory for a Saturn V launch vehicle was made for MSC. The study was performed by the Lockheed-California Company, Burbank, California. It was based on the proposition that a large rotating space station would be one method by which the United States could maintain its position as a leader in space technology. Study results indicated that no major state-of- the-art advances would be required for a rotating space station program. If the program was to be implemented, maximum utilization could be made of the technologies, equipment, and facilities developed for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Significant reductions in cost, development time, and technological risk for a large rotating space station program would thereby be obtained.

Four principal objectives were established for the study: study of alternate configurations, conceptual design of a rotating station, selection of station systems, and a program plan for the rotating station. Ground rules and guidelines were established to limit, define, and focus the studies. A summary of these follows.

If the Gemini and Apollo programs were continued at the current pace, research requirements for implementing a large rotating space station were few. These requirements were



No aeronautics problems, as such, were anticipated; however, continuing research on the properties of the atmosphere at the orbital altitude would allow more accurate prediction of orbit decay rates.


Biotechnology and Human Research


Research to define more precisely the radiation environment and its effects on man should be continued. In connection with this work, better methods of measuring radiation dosage to man and of prognosis of potential damage were required.

Continuing research on the long-term effects of reduced gravity and methods of counteracting such effects were necessary. Major contributions would be made in the Gemini and Apollo programs.

Analysis and experimentation in the area of crew performance under reduced or zero gravity would aid in the design of equipment for both operations and maintenance.


Environmental and Stabilization Controls


Active systems had been proposed for stabilizing the rotating space station. Research in the area of passive stabilization devices would provide both increased reliability and decreased power consumption.

Environmental control on the space station would use currently available hardware, with the exception of the oxygen regeneration unit. The proposed arrangement would make use of the Bosch process, which requires a large amount of electrical power for the electrolysis of water. Research would be required on the electrolysis process and on alternative means of reclaiming oxygen.


Materials and Structures


Continuing research on the meteoroid environment and on penetration mechanics and hazards of penetration, based on representative space station [33] structures and operating pressures, would be required to permit more accurate evaluation of station and crew survival.

The effect of long-term exposure of materials to the space environment would aid in reducing the space station development span. Of primary interest were sealing, materials, lubricants, repair techniques, and surface coatings for preserving thermal properties and for preventing or facilitating vacuum welding.

Current toxicity data on materials dealt only in terms of industrial exposure times. The toxicity of the various materials that would be used in the space station should be evaluated for long-term human exposure in a representative environment.


Nuclear Systems


Nuclear power devices offered many attractive advantages for space station use; however, at that time, their development status, shielding requirements, and cost had prevented their use. Further research in both nuclear and radioisotope systems appeared justified in view of the potential benefits that could be realized.


Propulsion and Power Generation


One of the major logistic requirements for the space station would be propellants. The possibility of reducing propellant resupply requirements existing in the use of high-specific-impulse devices was now under development. Further research would be required to make the weight, size, thrust, and power consumption more compatible with space station requirements.

In the existing space station design, the primary power source, solar cells, needed to be complemented with power storage devices in the form of silvercadmium batteries. Research, aimed at increasing battery life as a function of depth of discharge, would result in a marked reduction of power system weight and logistic requirements.

The study recommended that effort in the following areas would provide critically needed technology:

Lockheed-California Co., Report No. LR 17502, Vol. Xl, Summary, "Study of a Rotating Manned Orbital Space Station," March 1964.


April 29

C. Howard Robins, Jr., and others in the MSC Advanced Spacecraft Technology Division investigated the suitability of and formulated a tentative mission flight plan for using a Gemini spacecraft to link up with an orbiting vehicle to achieve a long-duration space mission (dubbed the "Pecan" mission). The two crewmen were to transfer to the Pecan for the duration of the mission. As with similar investigations for the application of Apollo hardware, the scheme postulated by Robins and his colleagues emphasized maximum use of existing and planned hardware, facilities, and operational techniques.

Howard C. Robins, Jr., "On the Establishment of a Nominal Flight Plan for the Gemini-Pecan Mission," MSC Internal Note No. 54 EA-22, 29 April 1964.


June 5

Secretary of the Air Force Eugene M. Zuckert announced that three firms, Douglas Aircraft Company, General Electric Company, and The Martin Company, had received authorization to begin work on space station studies. Zuckert predicted also that the Titan III would be test-flown that summer and would launch the Manned Orbiting Laboratory sometime in 1967 or 1968.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1964, p. 205.


During the month

The recent creation of the Apollo Logistic Support System Office in Washington prompted the formal investigation of a variety of extensions of Apollo hardware to achieve greater scientific and exploratory dividends from Apollo hardware. Director of Special Manned Space Flight Studies William B. Taylor suggested to William E. Stoney and others in Houston that Grumman receive a study contract to investigate possible modifications to the lunar excursion module (LEM) to create a LEM truck (concepts which the company had already investigated preliminarily on an in-house basis). The time was appropriate, Taylor said, for more intensive and formal efforts along these lines.

Letter, William B. Taylor, NASA Hq, to William E. Stoney, MSC, "LEM Truck," 24 June 1964.


July 14

A study submitted to NASA by Douglas Aircraft Company concluded that a six-man space research station, capable of orbiting for one year, could be orbiting the Earth within five years. The crew, serving on a staggered schedule, would travel to and from the station on modified Gemini or Apollo spacecraft. The station would provide a small degree of artificial gravity by rotating slowly and would include a centrifuge to simulate reentry forces.

Douglas Aircraft Co., Report No. SM-45878, Douglas Orbital Laboratories Studies, July 1964.


July 21

Commenting on Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's views on the space program, Warren Burkett, science writer for the Houston Chronicle, observed that a great deal of research being conducted as part of NASA's Apollo program could be of direct value to the military services. Burkett contended that [35] an orbital laboratory using Apollo-developed components could be used for such military applications as patrol and orbital interception. He suggested that, with Apollo, NASA was generating an inventory of "off-the-shelf" space hardware suitable for military use if needed.

Houston Chronicle, 26 July 1964.


August 3

Willis B. Foster, Director of Manned Space Science in the Office of Space Science and Applications, distributed a preliminary draft report of the Ad Hoc Astronomy Panel of the Orbiting Research Laboratory (ORL). The panel, which met on 26 October 1963 and again on 24 June 1964, was created to sound out the American scientific community on the validity of manned astronomy in space and to define astronomy objectives for the ORL, mission. The panel promulgated a broad statement on the scope and direction of the manned space astronomy program. Although sounding rocket and unmanned satellite programs had merit, the panel stated that broader, more flexible and ultimately more economical- astronomy programs required the presence of man in space. Initial manned astronomy programs should he carried out as soon as possible, and, although primary interest was on Earth-orbital systems, the panel clearly was looking forward to the eventual possibility of lunar surface observatories.

The Ad Hoc Astronomy Panel also presented a comprehensive rationale for man's role in space astronomy: assembly of large, bulky, or fragile equipment in space; maintenance, repair, and modification of equipment; and direct monitoring of scientific apparatus and immediate data feedback during critical periods and for specialized operations. While recognizing that the presence of flight-oriented astronauts was mandatory aboard an ORL, the panel recommended inclusion in the crew of a qualified astronomer to direct scientific operations aboard the laboratory.

Letter, Willis B. Foster, OSSA, to A. D. Code, University of Wisconsin, 3 August 1964.


August 17

MSC's Spacecraft Integration Branch proposed an Apollo "X" spacecraft to be used in Earth orbit for biomedical and scientific missions of extended duration. The spacecraft would consist of the lunar Apollo spacecraft and its systems, with minimum modifications consisting- of redundancies and spares. The concept provided for a first-phase mission which would consider the Apollo "X" a two-man Earth-orbiting laboratory for a period of 14 to 45 days. The spacecraft would be boosted into a 370-km orbit by a Saturn IB launch vehicle. Variations of configurations under consideration provided for Configuration A, a two-man crew, 14- to 45- day mission, no lab module; Configuration B, a three-man crew, 45-day mission, single lab module; Configuration C, a three-man crew, 45-day mission, dependent systems double lab module; and Configuration D, a three-man crew, 120-day mission, independent systems lab module.

MSC Internal Note No. 64-ET-53, "Apollo Systems Extension, Apollo 'X,' Description and Mission Interrelationships," 17 August 1964.




cross-sectional drawing of the Apollo X in both launch and Earth-orbit configurations

The Apollo "X" spacecraft as it was visualized in both launch and Earth-orbit configurations by personnel of the MSC Spacecraft Integration Branch in August 1964.


September 24

A background briefing for the press regarding astronomy programs was held in Washington. Nancy Roman, who directed the agency's astronomy activities, disclosed that NASA was studying the feasibility of a manned orbiting telescope. Although the telescope would be designed to operate automatically, man would adjust its focus, collect film packets, and make any necessary repairs. The space agency had already invited members of the scientific community to propose astronomical studies suitable for use in space, and several NASA centers were performing related engineering support studies.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1964, p. 327.


October 26

In an interview for Missiles and Rockets magazine, Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., stated that NASA planned to initiate program definition studies of an Apollo X spacecraft during Fiscal Year 1965. Seamans emphasized that such a long-duration space station program would not receive funding for actual hardware development until the 1970s. He stressed that NASA's Apollo X would not compete with the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program: "MOL is important for the military as a method of determining what opportunities there are for men in space. It is not suitable to fulfill NASA requirements to gain scientific knowledge."

Missiles and Rockets, 26 October 1964, p 14.


December 1

In a letter to Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips regarding tentative spacecraft development and mission planning schedules, Joseph F. Shea, Apollo...



cross-sectional drawing of spacestation and booster rocket as conceived by Wernher von Braun

Above is a draftsman's completed work, taken from a rough sketch prepared by Wernher von Braun on 24 November 1964. All the descriptive material on either side of the conceptual space station was taken directly from von Braun's penciled sketch.


....Spacecraft Program Manager, touched upon missions following completion of Apollo's prime goal of landing on the Moon. Such missions, Shea said, would in general fall under the heading of a new program (such as Apollo X). Although defining missions a number of years in the future was most complex, Shea advised that MSC was planning to negotiate program package contracts with both North American and Grumman through Fiscal Year 1969, based upon the agency's most recent program planning schedules.

Letter, Joseph F. Shea, MSC, to Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq, 1 December 1964.


December 7

In a letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator Clinton P. Anderson, Chairman of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, recommended that the Air Force's MOL and NASA's Apollo X programs be merged. Senator Anderson argued that a jointly operated national space station program would most effectively use the nation's available resources. He claimed that $1 billion could be saved during the next five years if the MOL were canceled and those funds applied to NASA's Apollo-based space station program.

In mid-December, Anderson issued a statement saying that the Department of Defense and NASA had worked out an agreement on MOL and Apollo X that in [38] large measure answered the questions he had earlier raised. "The Air Force and NASA will take advantage of each other's technology and hardware development," Anderson said, "with all efforts directed at achievement of a true space laboratory as an end goal."

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1964, pp. 382, 425.


December 11

LaRC announced award of a 1 0-month contract to The Boeing Company to study the feasibility of designing and launching a manned orbital telescope and to investigate ways in which such an astronomical observatory might be operated, particularly the role that man might play in scientific observations. The study presumed that the telescope would be operated in conjunction with the proposed Manned Orbital Research Laboratory being investigated by Langley.

Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1964, p. 415, cites LaRC Release.


- 1965 -


January 23

Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara announced that the Department of Defense was requesting proposals from the aerospace industry for design studies to support development of the MOL (especially cost and technical data). Three contractors would be chosen to conduct the studies, a step preliminary to any DOD decision to proceed with full-scale development of the space laboratory.

Astronautics and Aeronautics 1965, p. 27, cites DOD News Release 42-65.


February 18

Testifying before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics during hearings on NASA's Fiscal Year 1966 budget, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller briefly outlined the space agency's immediate post-Apollo objectives: "Apollo capabilities now under development," he said, "will enable us to produce space hardware and fly it for future missions at a small fraction of the original development cost. This is the basic concept in the Apollo Extension System (AES) now under consideration." Mueller stated that the Apollo Extension System had "the potential to provide the capability to perform a number of useful missions utilizing Apollo hardware developments in an earlier time frame than might otherwise be expected. This program would follow the basic Apollo manned lunar landing program and would represent an intermediate step between this important national goal and future manned space flight programs."

U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Astronautics s, 1966 NASA Authorization: Hearings on H.R. 3730 (Superseded by H.R.. 7717), 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, pp. 111-115.


February 23

In a major policy meeting at Headquarters, among George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight (OMSF), Homer E. Newell, Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications (OSSA), and members of their staffs, a fundamental policy agreement was worked out regarding responsibilities for scientific experiments aboard manned space flights. Basically, OSSA had...




spacecraft design
concept prepared in early 1965 by Willard M. Taub

This original spacecraft design concept prepared in early 1965 by Willard M. Taub, MSC, for William E. Stoney, Jr., Chief of MSC's Spacecraft Technology Division, was used as a basis for later, more detailed spacecraft designs of the S-IVB Workshop. It has also been referred to extensively in discussing the most practical space station configurations.


...responsibility for definition of experiments, selection and coordination with experimenters, and, after the flight, analysis and dissemination of scientific data; OMSF was responsible for actual flight hardware, as well as integration into the space vehicles and actual conduct of the mission. Funding responsibilities between the respective offices followed the same pattern.

Memorandum, R. J. Allenby, NASA Hq, to George E. Mueller, OMSF, and Homer E. Newell, OSSA, "Minutes of Newell- Mueller Meeting of 23 February 1965," 19 April 1965, with enclosure, "Memorandum of Agreement Between Office of Manned Space Flight [and] Office of Space Sciences and Applications, Scientific Interfaces."


May 4

MSC Assistant Director for Engineering and Development Maxime A. Faget submitted to NASA Hq the Center's plans for Fiscal Year 1966 Apollo Extension System program definition and subsystems development efforts. The information submitted was based on MSC's AES study and supporting development efforts and was broken down into several categories in line with guidelines laid down by the Office of Manned Space Flight: program definition, verification of the capabilities of Apollo subsystems for AES; definition and initial development of experiment payloads and payload support; long leadtime development of primary spacecraft systems critical to achieving minimum AES objectives (i.e., four to six weeks orbital capability and up to two weeks on the lunar surface); and development of improved or alternate subsystems that would extend AES capabilities up [40] to three months in Earth orbit. Tasks in support of these objectives, Faget stated, fell into two priorities: (1) those tasks required to verify an early AES capability; and (2) tasks in support of later AES missions and for system improvement. Those tasks having immediate priority, therefore, demanded the "hard core" of AES funding essential to meet the early AES flight dates.

Letter, Maxime A. Faget, MSC, to F.. Z. Gray, NASA Hq, "FY 1966 AES program definition and subsystem development program submission (905)," 4 May 1965.


June 18

LaRC awarded Douglas Aircraft Company a follow-on study contract for the MORL, emphasizing use of the AES program as a prerequisite to the MORL. Douglas was to examine particularly interfaces between AES experiments and missions and the MORL program.

LaRC Contract NAS 1-3612.


June 28

NASA announced selection of six scientist-astronauts to begin specialized training at MSC for the Apollo program. The men, chosen by NASA from a group of 16 nominated by the National Academy of Sciences, included one geologist, two physicians, and three physicists. The six new spacemen were Owen K. Garriott of Stanford University; Edward G. Gibson of the Aeronutronic Division of Philco; Duane E. Graveline, a flight surgeon at MSC; Joseph P. Kerwin, a Navy flight surgeon; Frank C. Michel of Rice University; and Harrison H. Schmitt, an astrogeologist for the U.S.. Geological Survey.

NASA News Release 65-212, "NASA Selects Six Scientist-Astronauts for Apollo Program," 28 June 1965.


July 8

NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., named the Deputy Associate Administrator for Programming to coordinate the agency's responses to other governmental agencies regarding post-Apollo program planning and review. At present, Seamans said, considerable interest concerning NASA's post-Apollo plans existed in the space committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives; the President's Science Advisory Committee; the Office of Science and Technology; the National Aeronautics and Space Council; and the Bureau of the Budget. All were deeply involved in policy planning of direct concern to NASA. During forthcoming months, he emphasized, it was imperative that various program presentations and agency planning statements accurately reflect thinking of the agency's top leadership and that no contradictory positions be made outside the agency. This was essential, he said, "because of the very sensitive nature of many of the program options open to us and because of the intimate links between the NASA program and those of other major agencies."

Memorandum, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Deputy Associate Administrator for Programming, "Post-Apollo Planning Reviews, ' 8 July 1965.


July 22

Edward Z. Gray, Director, Advanced Manned Missions Program at NASA Hq, informed the Center Directors at MSC, MSFC, and KSC of significant recent [41] program decisions on the approach to be followed during Fiscal Year 1966 in defining payload integration for the AES to the extent necessary for awarding major project contracts approximately a wear later. In defining AES activity, Gray said, the Centers must follow the phased approach, with definition phase contracts to be awarded competitively to industry about the first of 1966. These contracts, to run for about five months, were to include the several companies' proposals for accomplishing the payload integration effort for all AES flights and would form the basis for NASA's final choice e of integration contractors. Current plans, Gray said, were based on selection of two such payload integration contractors, one at MSC and the second at MSFC, each responsible for about half of all AES Rights. (During the integration definition phase contracts, however, MSC had lead responsibility for competition and selection of study contractors, with participation by MSFC and KSC. Gray authorized MSC to supplement the existing AES study contracts with North American and Grumman to assist in the payload integration definition effort.)

Letter, Edward Z. Gray, NASA Hq, to Directors, MSC, MSFC, and KSC, "AES Mission 1 Planning and Payload Integration," 22 July 1965.


July 30

The final report on a modular multipurpose space station was delivered to MSC by the Spacecraft Organization of Lockheed-California Company. The concept provided for a sequential evolution of space vehicles ranging from small Apollo-dependent laboratories, through larger, more versatile laboratories, to a semipermanent space station.

Initial objectives of the study were to refine and optimize the design of the large orbital research laboratory. Eight tasks were defined by NASA to fulfill the intent of those objectives; but tatter, at NASA direction, efforts were concentrated on "Experiments and Utilization and "Design of Modular Concepts," two of the original tasks. The other tasks were reduced in scope or terminated.

The ultimate objectives of the program were conceptual investigation of a family of space stations utilizing- the modular, or building block, concept and integration of a broad spectrum of experiments and applications into this family of space stations. The study was a follow- on effort to "Study of a Rotating Manned Orbital Space Station," performed for MSC, by Lockheed. (See March 1964 entry.)

The modular concept, as defined in the study, could be applied to a wide variety of missions and configurations, but only six missions using four configurations were developed:

This investigation of the four configurations, as opposed to the study of a single design, dictated that Lockheed utilize a conceptual study approach and reduce or eliminate efforts not directly applicable to feasibility demonstration. Only major structural and mechanical designs were produced. Detailed design was limited to the depth necessary to ensure concept feasibility.

Two groups of NASA-furnished experiments provided the basis for determining interior arrangements of individual stations: 85 priority I Apollo Extension Systems experiments for the one and two-compartment laboratories and 405 "Supplementary Applications" for the interim and operational stations. The experiments were briefly reviewed to define man-hour, power, weight, volume, types of equipment, and laboratory layout requirements.

Principal guidelines were used to aid in defining the modular multipurpose space station:

Lockheed-California Co., Condensed Summary of Final Report (LR 18906), "Modular Multipurpose Space Station Study," 30 July 1965.


During the month

Grumman submitted to NASA its final report on a study of AES for Earth-orbit missions (conducted under the firm's contract for a LEM utilization study). The five-volume report comprised general engineering studies, mission and configuration descriptions for different groups of experiments (both NASA's and those for the Air Force's Manned Orbiting- Laboratory), and a cost and schedule analysis. (Grumman's basic LEM utilization study explored potential uses for that vehicle....




cross-sectional drawing of an orbital Workshop

The first conceptual sketch of an Orbital Workshop, based on a request from Dr. George E. Mueller, was prepared at MSC in mid-1965.


....beyond the initial Apollo lunar landing and examined several configurations, including a LEM laboratory for extended stays in Earth or lunar orbits; the LEM shelter, an unmanned logistics vehicle to afford astronauts a separate shelter for extended stays on the lunar surface; the extended LEM, a personnel carrier to be used in conjunction with the LEM shelter missions; and a LEM truck, an unmanned logistics vehicle without the ascent stage, thus affording an even greater payload capability to the lunar surface.) The scope of this addition to the basic study concerned the value of the LEM lab in conjunction with the command and service module for Earth-orbiting missions as part of the AES program. The study included spacecraft and experiment definition, as well as cost and schedule analyses; the description of spacecraft configurations to accommodate various types of experiments; and an analysis of crew procedures and operational requirements.

Grumman, Apollo Extension System Earth Orbit Mission Study, Final Report, Vol. 4 July 1965, pp. P-1 and P-2.