CHAPTER 18: THE SPACE STATION
© John F. Graham, 1995
Photos courtesy NASA
In 1952 Wernher von Braun wrote several magazine articles for Collier's
Magazine concerning space exploration. This was von Braun's idea for pushing
humanity into the solar system, a step at a time. This has always been the plan
from the early history of the first visionaries to the modern engineers.
President Kennedy's plan to go to the Moon in a decade, the greatest
technological feat of the 20th Century, was a bypass of this plan for gaining a
foothold in the Cosmos. Von Braun and his team insisted that a station be
established in Earth orbit to build the craft to explore the Moon. That way, the
infrastructure would still remain for other projects and would not be forgotten
in a flurry of mad budget cutting. The Lunar Orbital Rendezvous won out as
pointed above an the Saturn V was slowly discarded until nothing remained except
the command module by the time the mission returned to Earth. Von Braun agreed
with this plan in order to get into space because he felt that this step would
actually leap frog the United States beyond the space station stage and that the
Americans could use the Moon as a natural space station. When the Nixon
Administration canceled the planned space station, a return to the Moon to
establish a permanent base, and a voyage to Mars, von Braun sadly realized that
he was vindicated and he spent the rest of his days with Fairchild Industries
until his death in 1977.
The U.S. chose to build the space shuttle, but the shuttle had no where to
shuttle to. The greatest failure of the space age to this point was the
cancellation of the Saturn V line of rockets. With this huge space ship the U.S.
could have made a permanent foothold in LEO, but it was not to be as
near-sighted politicians almost gleefully canceled the funding and turned over
the remaining Saturn Vs to be museum pieces at Johnson Space Center and Marshall
Space Center. Senator Walter Mondale, who was to play an important role in
American politics for the next 20 years after the Apollo Program, reveled in the
fact that he was removing money from the space program. The U.S. was lucky to
get the space shuttle, reflecting the anti-technology, anti-knowledge, and
apathetic attitudes of Americans during the 1970s.
While the U.S. was floundering looking for some direction, the Soviet Union
decided to resume the natural course established by the visionaries so many
years before, and set out to occupy near Earth space in the world's first space
stations. Names like Salyut, Mir, Progress and Soyuz became commonplace as the
Soviets forged ahead keeping people in orbit for up to 438 days at a time. The
U.S. awoke during the 1980s under President Reagan and decided to establish a
space station within a decade, but expensive overruns and a year to year budget
slowed the project down and a station existed only in the minds of the
designers. Finally, following the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Russia
agreed to build a truly International Space Station and established a firm plan
to accomplish this endeavor. As we approach the end of the century, the missions
are starting to accomplish those goals established by visionaries so long ago.
You will note some very familiar names because these scientists had the same
ideas for human flight as they had for rockets.
In 1903 Konstantine E. Tsiolkovsky discussed the concept of a space station
in orbit around the Earth at a distance of 2000 - 3000 versts. A verst is
equivalent to 0.6629 miles. This would be a permanent human outpost in space
with its own energy from the Sun for power and a closed life support system to
permit biological entities to not only survive, but also to prosper. The
Russians have retained Tsiolkovsky's dream and made it their own as they live
and work in their various space stations.
Robert Goddard visualized in 1918 a nuclear powered ark to take the survivors
of a dying solar system to the regions of a new star to begin building another
Earth in another solar system. In 1920 he further predicted that humans would
build spaceships, stations, and fuel for them from extraterrestrial materials.
The German space prophet Herman Oberth described a human satellite as a space
station in his 1923 book The Rocket Into Interplanetary Space. He also suggested
these "stations" could refuel outbound space ships, observe the Earth,
serve as communication links between outer space and Earth. He also described
space construction of structures made from old rocket parts.
In 1928, two other space pioneers came up with ideas for space stations.
Baron Guido von Pirquet wanted to build three stations in orbit. One would
observe the Earth; one in a farther orbit would serve as a launch pad for
outward bound missions; and the third would intersect the orbits of the first
two serving as a communications and transportation link for supplies and
personnel. An Austrian Army officer named Potocnik designed a wheel-shaped space
station consisting of three parts: a crew module; a power module; and an
observatory. The wheel would rotate to induce artificial gravity and the power
station would be totally dependent on the Sun. The station would be placed in
geosynchronous orbit and would observe both the Earth and the stars. After
Potocnik, two events occurred which prevented further considerations about space
stations. Engineers actually began to build rockets to travel into space so most
efforts of all theoreticians and visionaries were linked in this endeavor. The
second even t was World War II which prevented any considerations of space
flight because everyone had only one word in their minds: victory.
The next stage of space station thinking occurred in 1949 when an Englishman,
H.E. Ross sketched a concept in the Journal of the British Interplanetary
Society of a large rotating structure to be used for meteorology and astronomy;
cosmic ray , zero-gravity , and vacuum research; and communications studies.
Ross included a crew of twenty-four engineers and scientists located in a
geosynchronous orbit to take advantage of Arthur Clarke's ideas written in his
1945 paper about communications satellites operations in this area. The rotating
structure was still thought necessary to counter the effects of microgravity.
Wernher von Braun's ideas for a space station were very well publicized in a
series of articles appearing in Collier's Magazine in 1952. Von Braun advocated
building a triple deck, 250 foot wide, wheel-shaped station in polar orbit to
observe the entire Earth from pole to pole. There would be rocket ships leaving
to go back to Earth or outward to the Moon and other planets. There would be
space taxis to unload the rockets and to transfer personnel and supplies from
these huge space freighters to the station. The station would have many
free-flying payloads for scientific research; among them a space telescope. Von
Braun foresaw the station as a springboard for solar system exploration, a
navigation beacon for ships and airplanes back on Earth, a meteorological
observer, and a military reconnaissance platform.
On October 4, 1957 Sputnik began to transform dreams into reality. The ideas
of a space station had been discussed prior to the beginning of the space age
and the main debate centered around how to turn the dreams of the visionaries
into engineering reality.
HISTORY-DREAMS INTO REALITY
The post-Mercury space program as envisioned by NASA included a space station
as its long range goal. Von Braun and his team came up with an elaborate scheme
for the Army which culminated in having military outposts on the Lunar surface.
The House Space Committee agreed that a space station was a next logical step
for human occupation of space. This came into direct competition with the
exciting aspect of a lunar landing and subsequent exploration. NASA selected the
Lunar landing as a true "end objective." Other scientists insisted
that NASA could do both within an extended period of time. John F. Kennedy
promptly ended all debate with his speech of 25 May 1961 that sent the U.S. to
the Moon for a brief exploration.
The 1960s saw lots of money and inspiration for post-Apollo projects. One of
the first concepts was a zero gravity scheme from Douglas Aircraft Company which
had a two stage rocket being launched into orbit. The propellant tanks would be
flushed and the astronauts would make the tank station into an observatory.
After observing, the crew would return to Earth via the reentry vehicle in which
they rode to orbit. This concept was the forerunner of the Skylab used 10 years
A space station symposium during the 1960s produced several ideas including a
modular scheme, an inflatable round structure, and a rigid self-deploying
design. All space stations at this time were based upon supplying artificial
gravity because the adapt ion of the human body to microgravity conditions was
still a large unknown.
MANNED ORBITING RESEARCH LABORATORY (MORL)
The next concept developed in the 1960s was the Manned Orbital Research
Laboratory. The missions for such a program were several:
- Learning to live in space
- Artificial gravity experiments
- microgravity experiments
- systems research and development
- Applications Research
- Communications experiments
- Earth observation
- Launch platform experiments
- Scientific Research
Douglas Aircraft was deeply involved in developing the baseline for a space
station. The engineers found that the station's size kept growing because of its
requirements until finally, they predicted that hundreds of thousands of man
hours in space would be required to accomplish all activities and would involve
several different space stations. The logistics costs seemed to be a problem.
The MORL was to be 260 inches in diameter to fit on a Saturn I-B launch
vehicle; it would need a crew of six to nine people and it would be powered by
solar panels. It was a zero gravity station with a centrifuge aboard to simulate
reentry and to test physical conditioning. There was a crew quarter area,
laboratory area, and a hangar for receiving space freighters to transfer
supplies. A big problem area was defining what was to be done on the space
station and why. NASA accomplished several studies to determine the answers to
these perplexing and important questions.
Originally, Gemini spacecraft were to be used as crew logistical ferries;
these were to be replaced later by Apollo capsules. Tether studies for
establishing artificial gravity on the order of 1/3 g were accomplished. The
MORL would be attached to a Saturn upper stage by cables and the entire
configuration rotated to obtain this little bit of artificial gravity.
The MORL was the most extensively studied space station concept during the
1960s. The Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston and the Marshall Spaceflight
Center in Huntsville concentrated on two projects during this time: Project
Olympus and the Saturn II.
Project Olympus was a 24 person space station launched by a Saturn V. There
was to be a zero gravity laboratory and artificial gravity as well. Its use
would be for launching Earth and Interplanetary missions as well as establishing
laboratories for materials processing and astronomy.
The Marshall plan called for the use of Saturn IV-B upper stage to build a
space station. This was to be an orbiting workshop with all sorts of
DOD - MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY (MOL)
DoD also established a Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) concept in 1963 to
replace the X-20 Dynasoar project which was terminated by Robert McNamara. When
he established the need for MOL, McNamara stated its objective, "The
objective of the Gemini X manned orbiting laboratory program will be to explore
operations in space using equipment and personnel which may have some military
The MOL vehicle was to be a modified NASA Gemini, called a Gemini B, attached
to a trailer-sized laboratory module. This configuration was to be launched by a
Titan III C. Now, a laboratory would be launched separately followed by
rendezvous and docking of the main spacecraft. At the time of this plan,
rendezvous and docking had not been attempted and the Air Force wanted to avoid
anything unknown at this point. Up until this planning stage the U.S. total
space flight experience was 54 hours. The re was worry about the effects of
weightlessness on a crewman's bones.
Of greater concern was the cost of the entire program. MOL would cost $1.5
billion; $500 million was needed for the support of a human crew. The Air Force
also had to prove that man had a military role in space before it could test
man's military role in space, the classic chicken and egg syndrome.
MOL could determine what military missions could be done best from space and
could also show what possible military capabilities of Soviet manned activities
would pose a threat to U.S. national security. The MOL was an experiment.
Launched from Cape Kennedy into an inclination less than 36º, it would not
overfly the Soviet landmass. Its orbit would range from 125 to 250 nautical
miles from which no photos of reconnaissance quality were to be taken.
One of the original design questions was how to transfer the crew from the
Gemini capsule to the laboratory. A first idea was to cut a hole in the Gemini
heat shield; the objection to this procedure was the question of whether this
configuration would survive reentry. A second idea was to have the astronauts
spacewalk and a third was to run an inflatable tunnel from one of the crew
hatches to the laboratory hatch. The hole in the heat shield remained the best
Like the ancient mythological Hydra, political ramifications started to rear
their various heads. 1964 was an election year. The Johnson ticket wanted to
show to the voters that they were being economic with taxpayers' money. The
Republican Platform called for scrapping the Moon landings and concentrating on
low Earth orbits with military activities. If Johnson even hinted that he wanted
MOL he would have appeared to have been supporting Goldwater's platform.
Duplication was a more serious problem because NASA was proposing Apollo X a
post-Apollo mission for low Earth orbit activities. Even though the various
bureaucrats argued their various cases, Congress still said that both programs
were a duplication, but they agreed among themselves that MOL would be a great
arms control enhancer by putting human judgment in concert with satellite
reconnaissance capabilities. This would result in the true open skies policy
that the Eisenhower Administration sought for so many years. The MOL could even
lead to formal inspection of weapons from space.
Final go-ahead for MOL was announced on August 25, 1965. Douglas Aircraft
Corporation would build the laboratory; McDonnell, the Gemini B capsule; and
General Electric, the experiment package. The laboratory would be 41 feet long;
the capsule, 13 feet and the total weight would be 25,000 pounds including a
6000 pound Gemini B and a 5000 pound reconnaissance package. The launch vehicle
remained the Titan III C. The mission was to fly into a polar orbit from
Vandenberg Air Force Base even though origin ally it was planned to fly a less
threatening 36º inclination previously.
The problems began mounting when the Air Force wanted to change configuration
by adding an automatic operating mode that changed the weight to 30,000 pounds
which was too much for the Titan III C. The rocket engineers then designed the
Titan III M with seven strap on rockets. These activities led to another year's
slip and greater expense. The Air Force selected the first group of eight pilots
in November 1965, a second group of six in June 1966, and a third group of four
in June 1967.
On November 3, 1966 NASA launched a Gemini 2 spacecraft with the mission of
carrying several science experiments and to test the heat shield/hatch. Its
reentry put the maximum heating on the hatch and it landed without incident. The
heat shield had welded the hatch shut during its reentry. The Gemini 2 test was
the high water mark of the MOL program.
By 1968 all MOL technical problems had been solved and the spacecraft was
ready. The laboratory was ten feet in diameter and 14 feet long; it was divided
into two parts; the forward section was the work area; the rear was the living
area. Velcro was to be used to hold the crew in place. There were no windows and
the atmosphere was 31% helium and 69% oxygen at 5 psi. This would reduce the
chance of fire as well as reduce the medical problems induced by breathing a
100% oxygen atmosphere for a prolonged period.
The missions were becoming firm as well, the MOL's main job was to test a
human's military usefulness in space. The numerous primary tasks were to
experiment with large optics; assemble, erect and align large structures such as
radar antennas; track ground and space objects; spot targets of opportunity;
conduct electronic intelligence (ELINT) surveys; accomplish ocean surveillance;
take multispectral photographs; make poststrike target assessments; conduct
space walks (extravehicular activity, EVA); do in-space maintenance; accomplish
navigation tests; perform biological and medical experiments; and do other
general military performance activities. A human provided on-the-spot analysis
which was the biggest advantage for having a person in space.
There were scheduled five MOL missions, each with its own experiment package.
The crew would launch in their Titan III-M vehicle with the laboratory attached
and once they achieved a 300 mile orbit they would enter the laboratory from
their hatch in the heat shield. Each mission had 30 day duration. After the
mission the crew would return to the Gemini capsule, separate from the
laboratory that would burn into the atmosphere, and splash down exactly like the
On June 10, 1969 the Nixon Administration canceled the MOL Program. Why?
Vietnam ate all the money from the program. The U.S. Air Force did not help
matters by changing requirements for an automatic system after the plans had
been made thus mandating a new launch vehicle because of increased weight. The
duplication of the MOL with Skylab in spite of DoD and NASA's assurances to the
contrary also contributed to its demise. MOL was constantly under the financial
gun; without money a large project will meet with delays and then require more
money, loss of political support and changing requirements. The most important
legacy of MOL is to underline the need for a commitment to a goal. That is the
key to success.
In 1965 NASA outlined to President Johnson what it thought the post-Apollo
missions should be. There was an entire list of projects including advanced Moon
exploration, precursor Mars exploration, and a manned Earth orbital program.
Budget cuts led to t he Apollo Applications Program (AAP) to concentrate on low
Earth orbit. The AAP main mission was to support long-duration orbital flights
on which astronauts would perform experiments in space science and technology.
The mission would use the Saturn S- IVB stage as a station. This idea was
announced on January 26, 1967 and the missions would start within a year. The
Apollo 1 fire occurred the next day and all AAP funds went for repairing the
Apollo command module. In February 1970 AAP was renamed Sky lab.
The main part of Skylab was a modified S-IVB rocket stage of a Saturn IB.
This was called the orbital workshop (OWS) and provided crew quarters,
experiment compartment, and storage for food and water. A large meteoroid shield
on the craft's outside protected the crew from impacts and provided thermal
protection as well. On the sides of the OWS were two large solar arrays to
supply the workshop with ten kilowatts of electrical power.
The OWS was separated into two-stories. In the lower level was the crew
quarters including a galley with a table for eating, the waste management
compartment (toilet), sleeping compartment, and an experiment compartment. The
second story contained storage for food, clothing, space suits, and experiment
equipment. This living compartment was inside of the liquid hydrogen storage
tank; beneath this was the liquid oxygen tank that was used to store trash.
On the forward dome of the OWS was an airlock module (AM) which could be
isolated and depressurized when astronauts had to perform space walks or EVA
activity. The AM served as a control center for Skylab, housing the
life-support, communications links and the station's nitrogen and oxygen storage
tanks. Connected to the AM was the multiple docking adapter (MDA) to which the
crews docked when they arrived from Earth to the Skylab. On the side of the MDA
was a second docking port to be used for emergencies.
Also inside the MDA were the main controls for the Apollo Telescope Mount
(ATM) solar observatory; the ATM was mounted on the AM/MDA structure and looked
like a windmill with four solar arrays extending from the central structure
which housed eight solar telescopes and a variety of other sensors. These solar
arrays generated half of Skylab's power.
Skylab was 119 feet long, had a 27 foot diameter, weighed 200,000 pounds, and
had a volume of 12,000 cubic feet. A Saturn V would launch this structure with
all its solar panels neatly folded by its sides; Skylab would replace the
Saturn's normal third stage. Once in orbit, the solar panels would deploy and
the first three-man crew would rendezvous with the station and occupy it after a
launch on a Saturn-IB.
The Saturn-V launched Skylab on May 14, 1973 after a precise and smooth
countdown. Once Skylab reached its 270 mile circular orbit apparent malfunctions
immediately occurred. Neither solar panel on the OWS had deployed, the
meteoroid/heat shield was no t functioning, and the temperature started to rise.
An investigation of the telemetry at the beginning of the mission showed that
the meteoroid shield deployed 63 seconds into the flight and it was promptly
ripped off the side of the vehicle as the Saturn-V approached maximum dynamic
pressure. When the meteoroid shield ripped itself off, it took with it one of
the solar panels and jammed the other one. Also with the meteoroid shield went
the thermal protection and the temperature rose to 165ºF. This temperature
would spoil food, film, and medicine. NASA engineers changed the orientation of
Skylab away from the Sun and managed to lower the temperature to 130ºF. If the
temperature had gone much higher the instruments would have been affected and
Skylab's insulation would have begun to emit poisonous gases making the station
permanently uninhabitable. Engineers worked around the clock to design an
emergency sun shade, choosing a 24 X 22 foot rectangular shade that resembled a
parasol with extendible fishing rods. Once the astronauts reached orbit in their
Apollo capsule they would transfer into the Skylab and immediately deploy the
On May 25, 1973 Skylab 2 launched in a Apollo capsule with all sorts of
repair equipment on board. Astronauts Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz and Joe Kerwin
rendezvoused with Skylab seven and one half hours later and tried to free the
solar panel, but it was riveted into the side of the station. The next day
Conrad and Weitz deployed the sun shade and temperatures dropped 50 - 60ºF. The
astronauts turned on all their experiments activating the solar telescopes and
the Earth Resources Experiment Package. These experiments took their toll on the
electrical power. Astronauts in Houston developed procedures in the water tank
for freeing the solar panel and relayed these instructions to Conrad and Weitz.
Using a 25-foot pole and some cable cutters they man aged to free the solar
panel which immediately began generating electricity. The astronauts proceeded
to adapt to life in space.
The astronauts exercised on a bike thirty minutes per day and underwent tests
to determine the disorientation of weightlessness. They ate lobster newberg and
filet mignon and other delightful food. They slept zipped in their sleeping bags
in closets placing their heads in any direction. The astronauts used an air
suction toilet using a lap belt and foot straps to hold them to the seat; this
technique took practice. They took weekly showers in an enclosed collapsed
stall; the water was in a cloud of floating droplets that splashed on impact.
Three quarts of water were needed per shower, but a vacuum hose was needed to
clean up all the droplets from the bodies and from the curtains. After 28 days
the Skylab 2 astronauts returned to Earth; they lost weight; they were one inch
taller; their hearts had shrunk 3%; and their stomach muscles had gotten
On July 28, 1973 Skylab 3 launched with the mission to stay in space for 59
days. The three astronauts were Alan Bean, Owen Garriot, and Jack Lousma.
Spacesickness struck the crew immediately after they tried to unload the Apollo
capsule. The crew was debilitated for two days and could not eat or move. Pills
and exercises did no good. By the fourth day the astronauts were operating again
and began setting up experiments. Six mice had died, but the minnows and spiders
survived and thrived. The minnows had problems figuring which way was up, but
their offspring adapted to weightlessness immediately. The spiders, Anita and
Arabella, spun really tight and disjointed webs, but within a week the webs were
normal. The astronauts also adapted and by the 10th day Garriot and Lousma
reinforced the makeshift parasol with a second sunshade.
The second crew exercised twice as much as the first crew; tests given each
three days showed that they were losing red blood cells, bone calcium and weight
very much like the first crew. After 40 days these losses stopped. This crew
completed 39 Earth surveys and logged 305 hours at the solar telescopes. These
astronauts had traveled 24.5 million miles in their 59 days.
On November 16, 1973 Skylab 4 with astronauts Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson, and
William Pogue rode their Saturn-IB to the station. This time the astronauts
stayed in their Apollo capsule to avoid spacesickness. A bad scheduling problem
led to a "fight" between the astronauts and the flight controllers.
The astronauts were angry because they had no time to relax; the controllers
were upset because they claimed they couldn't finish the assigned tasks which
Headquarters NASA had added to the schedule. Besides accomplishing the wonderful
Earth observations, the astronauts photographed the comet Kohoutek and watched
the birth and life of a solar flare. This activity could help study nuclear
fusion as a possible energy source on Earth. The crew also manufactured alloys
and crystals; these metallic structures were stronger and more uniform than any
ever made on Earth. After 84 days the crew returned to Earth. Their health and
readaption to Earth's gravity had been faster than the other crews. The
astronauts took more than 180,000 pictures of the Sun which revealed it was a
very complex star. Skylab would never be occupied again; it kept orbiting the
Earth until July 12, 1979 when it burned into the Earth's atmosphere over the
Indian Ocean and Australia . There were plans to rescue it with the space
shuttle, but due to a swelling of the Earth's atmosphere by a series of solar
flares the drag increased on the space station bringing it back to Earth four
years sooner than anticipated. Ideas of rendezvousing the shuttle with Skylab
were never to be.
COOPERATION IN SPACE: APOLLO SOYUZ
During the 1960s hopes were expressed that the United States and the Soviet
Union could join forces in the human exploration of space, but in practice the
two programs advanced without regard to cooperation: the Americans with their
Apollo Program and the Russians with their Salyuts. After the final Apollo
flight in 1972 and the last Skylab flight in 1974, the American human space
program was to cease until the space shuttle began seven years later.
Toward the end of the 1960s the Russians relaxed the secrecy in their
programs and even discussed with American NASA officials the possibility of
accomplishing a joint mission. There were several problems to be solved before a
joint mission could take p lace. The major problem was that the Soviet
spacecraft used normal air with a normal atmospheric pressure while the Apollo
used 100% oxygen at low pressure. To allow docking of the spacecraft some kind
of intermediate module would be needed.
After many technical meeting to resolve this and other problems, an agreement
was signed between President Nixon and Premier Kosygin on May 24, 1972 to fly a
joint Soviet American spaceflight in 1975. The docking was not only for
international cooperation, but it was also to test rescue procedures which were
moot since NASA was not flying any more Saturn rockets or Apollo capsules.
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP) marked a new openness in the Soviet
Space Program. In May 1975 the American astronauts were allowed to visit
Baikonur to watch the assembly of the (ASTP) Soyuz vehicle.
On July 15, 1975, in front of a world-wide audience the Soviet Cosmonauts,
Leonov and Kubasov, launched into orbit. While Soyuz completed its fourth orbit,
the Apollo crew of Stafford, Slayton, and Brand launched from Cape Kennedy. A
day after this launch Apollo approached Soyuz and initiated docking procedures.
Apollo acted as the active spacecraft while Soyuz was the passive. Two hours
after docking on July 17, 1975 Tom Stafford met Alexi Leonov halfway between the
two vehicles and shook hands. This symbolic handshake marked the culmination of
The spacecraft remained docked for two days as crew members transferred back
and forth, but there was always one American in Apollo and always one Soviet in
Soyuz. This was done so that any emergency which arose would mean that there
would always be room for everybody on one or the other spacecraft, since both
the Apollo and the Soyuz had room for three. During this time the Soviets and
Americans conducted joint experiments in Earth observation.
After the Apollo undock on July 19, they maneuvered to provide the body for
an artificial solar eclipse. Once this was completed the Soyuz performed an
active docking. Three hours later the spacecraft undocked and completed their
On July 20, 1975 the Soyuz 18 vehicle reentered the Earth's atmosphere and
landed without incident. Their American counterparts did not have as easy a
touchdown. On 24 July 1975 the Apollo splashed down west of Hawaii very close to
the recovery ship. During descent gases from the Apollo attitude control system
began leaking into the command module and the crew came very close to dying from
suffocation, but they recovered and the Apollo Program came to a final end.
The ASTP was a dead end project; the Americans were never going to fly an
Apollo capsule again and there were no plans for American space stations to
which a Soviet spacecraft could dock in the event of an emergency. ASTP was born
in an era of détente and it remained a bright spot of Soviet-American
cooperation until the end of the Cold War.
THE WORLD'S FIRST SPACE STATION - SALYUT
During the 1960s Soviet statements concerning the future of manned
spaceflights placed equal emphasis on the project to fly humans to the Moon and
establishing a manned laboratory in low Earth orbit. The space station took a
back seat to the Moon Program until 1969.
By 1969 the Soviet Union had clearly lost the "Moon Race" and on
the 24th of October that same year, the President of the Soviet Academy of
Sciences, Keldysh, stated first, the Soviet manned space program no longer had a
firm time table to go to the Moon and secondly, the Soviet Union would
concentrate its attention toward establishing manned space stations in low Earth
orbit. The station was approved in late 1969, constructed in 1970, and launched
The core design of the Salyut 1 remained throughout the evolution of all the
subsequent "civilian" space stations, Salyuts 4, 6, and 7 and the MIR.
Since the Korolev Institute designed and built both the Salyut and the Soyuz, a
lot of identical equipment is in both vehicles.
Salyut was about 45 feet long and had a weight of 40,000 pounds. Its basic
configuration consisted of four cylinders of different diameters and length.
Three of these cylinders were pressurized while the fourth, housing the
station's propellant was open to space. The Soyuz docked at the front end of the
Salyut at the transfer compartment.
The transfer compartment was six feet in diameter and ten feet long. It was a
drogue design made to dock to the Soyuz's probe mechanism. This was the first
time the Soviets had used a docking device with a transfer tunnel. When two
Soyuz missions had previous docked, the crews switched capsules by accomplishing
an EVA. A hatch at the end of the transfer compartment opened into the Salyut's
work compartment. The small transfer area also housed some scientific equipment
including the pressurized Orion Telescope, cameras, and biological experiment
equipment. On the compartment's exterior were the external part of the Orion
Telescope, two solar panels, the rendezvous radar, docking lights, a television
camera, heat regulator panels, orientation sensors, and a micrometeorite
The Salyut work compartments were divided into three sections. From the
transfer compartment the hatch opened into a ten-foot diameter by 13 foot long
cylinder. This attached to a four foot long frustrum which led to the Salyut's
largest compartment which was 13 feet in diameter by 14 feet in length. Along
the lengths of the work compartments were equipment sections and
instrument/cable networks installed on the compartment frames. These were
covered by removable panels for easy access. For crew orientation, to show which
way was up and down, each surface was painted a different color. The front and
rear of the workshop was painted a light grey, one side was a light apple green,
the other was a light yellow, and the floor was a dark grey.
In the smaller work compartment was a table for eating attached to a tank of
potable water; primary water storage was two tanks on the left and right of the
spacecraft. Sleeping bags were located on the left and right sides of the large
module, but cosmonauts could sleep in the Soyuz space capsule if they so
desired. The sanitation/hygiene unit was located at the very rear of the large
work compartment. It was separated from the rest of the compartment and had its
own fans for ventilation. The entire surface of this unit was covered with
Seven work stations were provided to control the Salyut system and to operate
the various pieces of scientific equipment. The number one station was the
central element of the Salyut design. One board system control was located here.
This station was positioned in the lower part of the smaller work compartment;
it had two chairs, panels for automatic orientation and navigation, and optical
viewers for manual orientation.
The number 2 station, also located in the small compartment, was the
astropost, designed for working with manual star-orientation and star-navigation
systems. It included a control handle for orientation of the Salyut, a means of
holding the cosmonaut in his work position, and a viewing port. The number 3
station was located in the central part of the large work compartment. From its
control panel and viewing port the cosmonauts could control various scientific
apparatus. The number 4 station, locate d in the frustrum between the two work
compartments, was for science and medical experiments. This station contained a
viewing port, a chair and medical research equipment.
The number 5 position controlled the Orion-1 telescope; it was located in the
transfer compartment with control panels, viewing port, and a sight and arm
system for guiding the telescope. The number 6 station was another astropost
identical to the number 2 position except that it had a chair and a shutter to
close the port. The number 7 station was on the left side of the small work
compartment and contained equipment for monitoring the low Earth orbit
At the rear of the station inaccessible to the cosmonauts was the propulsion
system. It contained an engine which burned UDMH and nitric acid giving a total
burn time of 1000 seconds equating to a propellant load of 1500 kg. This engine
was slightly recessed within the rear cylinder and contained small vernier
engines for attitude control based in the recess and the outside on the
cylinder's rim. The rear compartment also had a second set of solar cells which
comprised 28 m2 of solar array area. When combined with the Soyuz transportation
vehicle there was a solar array area of 42 m2.
The Salyut experiments included making spectrograms with the Orion-1
telescope. This was complex because one cosmonaut had to hold the Salyut steady
while the other operated the Orion. Also aboard was a Gamma radiation telescope,
a photoemulsion camera for studying cosmic rays, multispectral cameras for Earth
study, and many medical experiments. Treadmills, muscle enhancing suits, and a
Chibis unit which forced blood into the body's lower extremities were aboard for
the cosmonauts' health.
On April 19, 1971 an SL-13 Proton launched Salyut 1 into a low Earth orbit of
200 - 220 kilometers. After the spacecraft was stable and appeared to function
normally the Soviets named the space station "Salyut" as a salute to
the tenth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight. Three days later Soyuz 10
launched and docked with the station. For some reason the cosmonauts did not
enter the station. After docking twice, the cosmonauts reentered the Earth's
atmosphere successfully. Next Soyuz 11 launched in to orbit on June 6, 1971, it
docked with Salyut 1, and the cosmonauts entered the station. After completing a
24 day mission packed with many experiments and many television programs relayed
to the Soviet people, the Soyuz 11 deorbited. A misconfigured switch left a
valve open which killed the cosmonauts during the reentry; the Soviets didn't
fly for two years after this accident.
THE MILITARY SALYUTS
The Soviets then concentrated on launching a Salyut military Salyut program
which may have been an answer to the American MOL. This space flight era began
with the failed launch of Salyut 2 in April of 1973. Subsequent launches of
military Salyuts 3 an d 5 were successfully orbited occupied, and operated by
five crews. Military Salyuts were smaller than its civilian counterpart and flew
much closer to the Earth, presumably for better viewing of the planet. The
station also had an attached vehicle which reentered after the cosmonauts
returned to Earth. After Salyut 5 the Soviets didn't launch another military
version of this station.
Salyut 4 was the first civilian space station; it was similar to Salyut 1
with the following changes: 1. the four nonsteerable solar arrays were replaced
by three larger, steerable arrays. 2. A new hatch allowed the transfer
compartment to act as an airlock for EVA spacewalks. Experiments involved
included astronomy, medicine, and technology. There were major science equipment
to accomplish this work. Salyut 4 had two successful missions with a total of 92
days total occupancy.
The major drawback of the original Salyuts 1-5 was that the cosmonauts had to
bring all of their supplies aboard with them. There was not enough storage space
as in the American Skylab for storing years worth of food, water and clothing.
The longest mission which these Salyuts supported was 63 days. The second
generation Salyuts would fly missions much longer and would need to be
resupplied from time to time; therefore, a supply ferry was mandatory to
maintain a fully operational Salyut for two years with 40,000 pounds of fuel,
food, clothing and water. No single Soviet booster had enough power to launch
this required weight at any one given time; therefore, a supply ferry was
The first step in the resupply plan was to include a second docking port on
the new Salyuts. The vehicle chosen was a Soyuz variant called a Progress. The
Progress had three modules; an instrument module, a central module, and the
orbital module. The instrument module was located in the rear of the spacecraft
where the descent module had been on the manned spacecraft. This module
contained all the automatic equipment necessary for an automatic rendezvous. The
orbital module was transformed into a cargo hold for all the cosmonaut supplies.
The central module contained 2000 pounds of propellant for the Salyut. The
cosmonauts could not enter this area and it contained Salyut fuel, oxidizer, and
pressure gas for refueling operations. The Progress did not have solar arrays,
but relied upon battery power to complete its mission; these batteries could be
recharged by the electrical power from the Salyut. The rendezvous was observed
from the ground by means of stereo television sets on the orbital module of the
Progress. Additionally, there were a long range radar and a short range radar
attached to this module.
This craft was almost identical to Salyut 4 except that the main propulsion
engine in the rear was gone and two engines were put on its side thus allowing
the Progress to dock. The layout of the compartments was standard Salyut design
with a few modifications. The forward transfer compartment from the Soyuz to the
Salyut now included a large rendezvous antenna and a smaller search antenna. On
the side was a hatch which allowed the cosmonauts to perform spacewalks. There
were handholds located on the outside of this structure for ease of cosmonaut
space walking activities. It also housed an astronomy camera, a sextant for
navigation, and a station to study the Earth's horizon. The hatch was changed to
allow depressurization of the module for EVA all owing it to be an airlock.
The first work compartment contained the main control consoles of the station
and a solar panel drive was located on the ceiling. The walls had cupboards for
experiments and a table which could be lowered from the ceiling; also on the
ceiling was a bicycle exerciser. Along the floor was the drinking water supply
and a viewport for an Earth camera system. The frustrum contained two
compartments with Earth resources cameras on the floor.
In the large work compartment was a large telescope and a gamma radiation
detector. Also located here were three sleeping bags, the shower, the toilet,
waste disposal airlocks, exercise equipment, food storage lockers and a second
transfer tunnel leading to the second docking port. Around this tunnel on the
outside were the propulsion system; the pitch, roll and yaw thrusters; and the
two main propulsion nozzles. The second docking port contained pipes that
allowed fuel transfer from the Progress to the Salyut.
The biggest problem facing the Soviet mission planners was the Soyuz capsule;
it was only rated for two and one-half months. This meant that it had to be
replaced about every two months. One crew would bring a Soyuz up to the station
and switch it out with the old Soyuz, thus leaving a fresh Soyuz for the long
During 1977 - 1981 aboard Salyut 6 there were 16 Soyuz launches of which only
one failed to dock; there were four launches of Soyuz-T craft; 12 launches of
Progress and Cosmos 1267 for a 94 % success rate. Prior to Salyut 6 there were
three main expeditions planned, lasting 3, 4-5, and 6 months respectively. The
Soviets surpassed this goal. Salyut 6 brought the Soviet program to new success
and prominence; it marked the future direction of the Soviet manned space
program going toward building a station with permanent occupancy around the
The Salyut 7 design was almost identical to Salyut 6 except that it
incorporated some of the lessons learned. The amenities for the cosmonauts
improved such as electric stoves for heating food, constant hot water,
refrigerator and newly designed seats. Two of the portholes allowed the
penetration of ultraviolet radiation to kill any infection the cosmonauts might
get. Because of the longer duration missions, the station had improved medical,
biological, and exercise facilities. The docking ports were improved to allow
safer docking with heavy Cosmos vehicles.
In February 1985 Soviet mission controllers lost all contact with Salyut 7.
There were no telemetry readings and by March 1 it appeared that the ship would
be abandoned. On June 6, 1985 a repair crew consisting of Colonel Dzhanibekov
and flight engineer Victor Savinykh launched to try to repair the vehicle. The
station was slowly tumbling in orbit, the solar panels were only partially
aligned and the cosmonauts knew for sure the station was dead and frozen. On
June 8 the cosmonauts docked with the vehicle using a laser range finder; after
sampling the station's air they entered the vehicle with fur coats and breathing
apparatus. By June 11 the cosmonauts had the station stabilized and solar panels
were realigned. On June 12 they refurbished the life support systems and
connected the heater; they also revived the station's dead communications. By
June 17 the station was mostly reactivated serving as a testimony to the courage
and resourcefulness of its cosmonaut crew.
Salyut 7 had not been a great leap in technology over 6 but it did allow
longer missions and the Soviets extended the manned duration up to eight months.
The cosmonauts had gained a great deal of experience in repair and general
overhaul of orbital stations; they also tested the flight testing of two large
cosmos vehicles with men on board. Soyuz-T 13 had brought the station back from
the brink of destruction to total operation.
MIR - WORLD'S FIRST MODULAR SPACE STATION
The MIR was based upon the Salyut with an overall length of 13.13 m with a
diameter of 4.35 meters. Its basic mass was 44,000 pounds and was launched
February 20, 1986. It contained four sections: transfer compartment, working
compartment, transfer adapter, and non-pressurized compartment. The work
compartment was the MIR's main room. Here are the crew work stations, the main
service equipment, and part of the scientific equipment. Also located here is
the crew's physical fitness equipment. Attached to this was an axial docking
port on which were placed the various modules on the MIR.
KVANT - This module allows the following tasks to be performed: completes
economic, scientific, and technological research; performs observatory duties.
This was docked aboard the MIR on April 12, 1987 with a mass of 22,000 pounds, a
length of 5.3 meter s and a diameter of 4.35 meters.
KVANT 2 - This equipment module provides scientific experiments such as
multispectral Earth photography and biological research inside an incubator.
Also in this module is an airlock for spacewalks as well as water regeneration
systems and the oxygen supply. This module docked on December 6, 1989; it had a
mass of 40,000 pounds, a length of 12.2 meters, and a diameter of 4.35 meters.
KRISTALL - This is designed for technological, biological, geophysical, and
astrophysical experiments. The module has two major functions: a materials
processing laboratory and as a docking point for the U.S. space shuttle. This
module has a mass of 40,000 pounds, a length of 11.9 meters, and a diameter of
4.35 meters. The module docked on the MIR on May 31, 1990.
The newest module to be added to the Mir space station is the SPEKTR module
designed to monitor the Earth and the Sun. It will watch the Sun's activity,
record cosmic rays, and measure gas from volcanoes, forest fires, and
environmental pollution. Additionally, it contains a number of American life
science experiments for the cosmonauts and visiting American astronauts to
accomplish. It has a mass of 44,000 pounds, a length of 9.1 meters, and a
diameter of 4.35 meters. SPEKTR docked to the Mir main module on June 1, 1995.
The last module for the MIR configuration will be launched in December 1995.
The PRIRODA module will study the Earth's oceans concentrating on the
interaction of the ocean with the atmosphere. It will also have a mass of 44,000
pounds, a length of 9.7 meters with a diameter of 4.35 meters.
RECENT AND FUTURE RUSSIAN/ U.S. SPACE STATION COOPERATION
Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States became
highly interested in joining Russia along with ESA, Japan, and Canada to
construct and inhabit an International Space Station by 2002. As a stepping
stone for building the station, a number of missions are to be flown to the MIR
from the space shuttle and a number of Russian Cosmonauts will fly aboard the
space shuttle. These missions comprise Phase I of the International Space
SPACE STATION CONSTRUCTION
In order to construct the new space station efficiently, the Russians and the
Americans have divided the construction into three phases, Phase I, II, and III.
The goal of Phase I is to lay groundwork for the International space station
construction in Phases II and III. Phase II will begin in 1997 when the partners
will orbit the core module with a U.S. laboratory module, the first dedicated
laboratory module on the station. Phase III begins in 1999 with utilization
flights while the space station construction continues. In 2002 Phase III ends
when the space station is fully assembled. At that time the astronauts and
cosmonauts will begin full time research on the space station.
In Phase I of the International Space Station plan, the Astronauts and
Cosmonauts will work together in laboratories aboard the MIR and the space
shuttle. Four major areas on Phase I include the following:
Russians and Americans working together on Earth and in space, practicing
procedures for the future International Space Station.
Integration of U.S. and Russian hardware, systems, and scientific goals.
Risk reduction and mitigation of potential surprises in operations, the space
environment, EVAs, and hardware exchange.
Early initiation of science and technology research.
The International Space Station Phase I began in February 1994 when Russian
Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev flew on Discovery for the STS-60 mission. A second
Russian Cosmonaut, Vladimir Titov flew aboard Discovery also on STS-63 as the
shuttle approached the MIR stopping at 37 feet and flew around the entire
station taking pictures of any possible damage on the space station. This
mission was a rehearsal for the first docking between Atlantis and the MIR.
Beginning with Norm Thagard in March 1995, American astronauts will live and
work aboard the MIR for months with the Russian Cosmonauts while achieving
longer duration flights than accomplished by American astronauts during Skylab.
Thagard arrived at the MIR on March 16, 1995 and he departed on the Atlantis on
July 4, 1995.
On Thursday, June 29, 1995, at 8:00 A.M. Houston time the Space Shuttle
Atlantis docked with the MIR establishing a major milestone in Phase I
operations. Two hours later the two commanders shook hands and the crews of ten
gather for photographs of the historic occasion. There were a number of firsts
other than the docking: the first transport of Russian cosmonauts aboard the
shuttle who took command of the MIR; the first time cosmonauts were returned
from the MIR to Earth via the Space Shuttle; the first time joint experiments
were accomplished on the MIR and space shuttle simultaneously; and the second
time Russians and Americans had rendezvoused and docked in space. There are to
be six more shuttle rendezvous and dockings with the MIR. A summary of the
proposed missions follow:
STS-74 will have a planned launch in October of 1995. The shuttle will carry
a Russian built docking module which has multimission androgynous docking
mechanisms at the top and the bottom. During the flight the space shuttle will
use its remote arm to hoist the docking module from the payload bay to the top
of the shuttle's docking system. The shuttle will dock with the MIR using the
top portion of the docking module. After two days the shuttle will undock
leaving the entire docking module permanently docked to the MIR. The purpose
behind this docking module is to provide clearance between the shuttle and MIR's
solar arrays during future dockings. Also during this mission, the space shuttle
will deliver water, supplies, equipment and two new solar arrays for the MIR.
One solar array was built by the Russians and the other was jointly developed.
The purpose of the new solar arrays is to upgrade the MIR power system. Upon the
shuttle's return to Earth it will bring equipment for repair, which can' t fit
in the Soyuz, experiment samples, and products manufactured on the MIR.
STS-76 has a planned launch of March 1996. The shuttle will deliver a U.S.
astronaut for a three month stay. The orbiter will remain docked to the MIR for
five days while two astronauts will conduct U.S. EVAs around the MIR to place
four experimental packages.
In August of 1996 STS-79 will pick up the astronaut delivered in March and
will drop off another astronaut scheduled for a three month stay aboard MIR. The
space shuttle will remain docked for five days.
STS-81 will be launched in December 1996 to deliver and pick up the next
astronauts for flight aboard MIR. Two Russians or an American and a Russian will
accomplish an EVA.
STS-84 launched in May 1997 will pick up the astronaut delivered aboard
STS-81 and will drop off another astronaut. The shuttle will remain docked on
the MIR for five days.
STS-86 is planned for launch in September of 1997. The shuttle will pick up
the astronaut delivered on STS-84 and will deliver a joint U.S. solar dynamic
energy module. Two spacewalks by U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts will be
necessary to deploy the module outside the MIR. The solar dynamic system will
heat a working fluid which will drive a turbine, generating more electricity
than the solar arrays. This solar dynamic energy module will test the system
which is planned for use aboard the International Space Station. Additionally,
developing this equipment will provide joint engineering and development
experience in both Russia and the U.S.
These joint missions and the plan for an International Space Station came
about due to several reasons: first, the Russians had a workable space station
in orbit; second, the Russians have far more experience in long duration space
experience than anyone else and it was smart to use this experience; and third,
the United States was having a very hard time getting their space station off
the design boards and into space.
THE US SPACE STATIONS
Following the highly successful Skylab missions, the U.S. forgot about using
expendable launch vehicles; they threw away the plans for the Saturn vehicles
and put all of their eggs into one basket by relying strictly on the space
shuttle. The shuttle was a shuttle to no particular destination because the
proposals for a space station were disapproved by a highly anti-technology,
anti-science congress which had been elected by a anti-technology, anti-science
population who blamed the technology sector for everything from Vietnam to
polluted water. There were a few lights in this darkness.
Dr. Gerard O'Neil was in charge of freshman physics at Princeton and he
wanted to make a course to inspire imagination and creativity as well as teach
physics. What he settled upon was having the class design space colonies. The
space program seemed to be old hat to most Americans, but it was alive again to
these students as they tackled problems about where to place the colonies in
orbit, what materials to use to construct the colonies, where would these
materials come from, and how would the people get materials from the Earth to
establish these colonies. As a result of this course and subsequent courses
along with a highly popular book called THE HIGH FRONTIER, Dr. O'Neil spread his
theories and ideas for constructing large structures in space. He even inspired
an entire space group called the L-5 Society which promoted the idea of creating
colonies in space. These ideas may have seemed real to Dr. O'Neil's followers,
but without some sort of infrastructure to get into space, the theories and
designs would go nowhere. But the ideas did serve as a catalyst to make people
aware of the projects to create a space station in orbit.
As a building block for a space station the European Space Agency (ESA)
created Spacelab, a space laboratory which fit into the payload bay of the space
shuttle. Here scientists could create new materials by use of microgravity
processing experiments and doctors could obtain a new understanding of medicine
as they studied the effects of zero g on the human body. Pharmaceutical
companies were in a race to use the lab to accomplish electrophoresis
experiments for the manufacture of purer drugs while one company, 3M, wanted to
fly experiments aboard ten shuttle flights for more materials processing
experiments. In November 1983 Spacelab launched aboard the Columbia. Once in
space shuttle astronauts worked round the clock to complete 70 different
experiments grouped into five main fields - space medicine, materials science,
astronomy, space physics, and Earth physics. On the ground was a corps of 200
scientists advising and instructing the crew. Spacelab exceeded expectations and
accomplished the main mission objective of conducting advanced science in space.
This interest in using space to help life on Earth aided the call for a space
President Reagan did request a space station in his State of the Union
Address on January 25, 1984; it was a call for the U.S. to put a station into
orbit within a decade; but it was a siren call for many large and not so large
aerospace companies to raise their financial bottom lines.
American has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for
greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working
in space for peaceful economic and scientific gain. Tonight I am directing NASA
to develop a permanently manned space station, and do it within a decade.
This led to a large project with large money requirements and no true
commitment on the side of the contractors, the government, or the American
people as had been exemplified with President Kennedy's Moon Program. When
someone asked the question of what use would a permanently occupied space
station be, NASA identified more than 300 missions.
One such mission was the microgravity sciences including biotechnology,
combustion, fluid physics, glasses and ceramics, electronic materials, metals
and alloys and polymers and chemistry. Another was life and biomedical science
with such areas as gravitational biology, space physiology, radiation biology,
controlled ecological support, environmental health, operation medicine, human
factors, behavior and performance, exobiology, crew health care, and regulatory
physiology. A third mission was engineering research and technology development
with emphasis on extra vehicular activity support, structures, spacecraft
materials, environmental effects, communications, radiation exposure to
informational systems, operations and fluid management. A fourth mission area
was commercial development with such items as space power, robotics, propulsion,
and remote sensing to be investigated. A fifth possible area for space station
research was observational science including natural resources, oceanic,
atmospheric, and near Earth environmental research. This was what could be
possible for the permanently inhabited space station.
The contractors seemed to have the attitude of making their money on the
space station design, getting out of the program, and going back to work on the
President's Strategic Defense Initiative where more money could be made. This
drove the price of the requested space station higher. Starting at $8 billion
the price soon rocketed to $18 billion and then upward to $32 billion. As the
price of the station rose, the political support lessened leading to a reduction
of funding which led to a redesign that raised the price tag even higher. This
merry-go-round continued until President Clinton demanded that a price and a
design be set; the space station passed by one vote in Congress.
In 1994 the Russians came on board and changed the political reasons for the
space station. This troubled scientific proposal now became a tool of foreign
policy; a way of keeping the hungry Russian military in line by feeding it
dollars to promote a facility which would benefit both the U.S. and Russia.
After this happened, the Congress happily jumped on the bandwagon and the
station passed by a comfortable margin. The following chronicalizes the changes
which occurred over the years; changes which raised the price tag so high and
simultaneously lowered space station expectations.
THE POWER TOWER
The first design reviewed was the power tower which was a 400 foot trusswork
tower with massive solar panels grouped at one end on a crossbeam over 300 feet
wide. All of the other components including habitation modules, work areas,
maintenance complex, docking modules and service area were attached to the
central truss. This allowed room for growth and increased maneuverability. At
400 kilometers above the Earth, the Power Tower would still experience
significant drag forces which would necessitate it being put into a higher orbit
to prevent decay. The long, flat Power Tower design would permit reaction jets
to boost its orbit more efficiently. This long tower design was ideal for
gravity gradient stabilization which meant that the Earth's gravitational field
would stabilize the structure's attitude by pulling along the entire length of
the station. One end would point toward Earth for the planetary research and the
other would point into space for astronomical research. The habitation modules
would also point toward the Earth giving the eight astronauts constant beautiful
THE DUAL KEEL
Designers soon realized that the tower had serious drawbacks; the most
serious problem was that the microgravity payloads for materials processing
would experience higher loads by virtue of the fact that they would be closer to
Earth and on the end of a lever which could induce more gravity. In case of an
emergency, the power tower's modules were connected end-to-end and couldn't be
sealed individually. A meteorite or space debris strike on one module could
destroy the entire station. Because of these concerns, designers switched from
the Power Tower to a Dual Keel.
The Dual Keel space station looked like a box kite. It consisted of two major
structure beams each about 110 meters (360 feet) in length and parallel to each
other. These beams were crossed at the midway point by an even bigger 122
meter(400 foot) cross beam. The parallel beams were closed by two top and bottom
beams of 44.5 meters (146 feet) which formed two boxlike areas and had much more
growth area than the Power Tower design. These end pieces would have the Sun and
deep space instruments mounted on them while the two large parallel beams would
contain the telescopes, satellite service bay, refueling bay, and docking bay
for orbital transfer vehicles which would transport satellites to and from
geosynchronous orbit. By its very design the Dual Keel space station had natural
gravity gradient stabilization just as did the Power Tower.
The crossbeam supported the eight solar panels close to the configuration's
middle area and in line with its center of gravity. These solar panels would
generate 75 kilowatts of power. Solar collectors would be experimental attempts
at using sunlight t o generate an additional 10 kilowatts of power. The docking,
habitation modules, and laboratory modules would be located at the center of the
Dual Keel station suspended from the crossbeam.
The heart of the dual keel space station would be a modular cluster of five
cylinders with connecting passageways. The exterior design of each module would
be identical, but its interior would reflect its particular function. These
cylinders are 4.6 meters(15 feet) in diameter and 13.4 meters (44 feet) long.
One of the cylinders would provide a docking port for the space shuttle, the ESA
Hermes, and the Japanese spaceplane, HOPE. Each module would contain 46.5 square
meters (500 square feet) of floor space, but in weightlessness it doesn't matter
the floor's location so the entire module can be used efficiently.
The initial five module design was as follows:
- One module for living quarters for eight crew members
- Two modules for laboratories; one for life sciences (ESA) and one for
materials processing (US)
- One module for advanced technology (Japan)
- One module for logistics; a storehouse for food and supplies
The Dual Keel space station was to be built at an orbit of 250 - 300 miles
above the Earth. The space shuttle was to have used about 20 flights. The
original plan called for delivery of the parts in 1992 with construction
beginning immediately. The timetable also called for a fully operational Dual
Keel station by 1998. By 1987 the price estimates of the Dual Keel space station
leap frogged from $8 billion to $13 billion to $20 billion. Accordingly, the
national bureaucrats decided to reduce the station. Because of its expense, the
Dual Keel was called too advanced and expensive for the new space station;
Congress wanted a slimmed down version of it. Determined to keep the Dual Keel,
NASA divide the Space Station Program into two blocks: Block I would include the
pressurized modules and some of the solar arrays for power and the Dual Keel was
consigned to a design called Block II to be decided upon by some future
administration who could find the money. After the parallel beams with their top
braces (the twin keels) and all their attached facilities and experiments were
removed, the center brace and the modules remained. This was called Block I also
known as the new space station, Freedom.
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE
By 1988 the space station seemed to be underway and it was given the name
Freedom, but another big budget fight between the Reagan Administration and
Congress led to a further reduction of the moneys allotted to the space station
and once again the size w as reduced and had to be redesigned which meant it
cost more money.
The space station was now 108 meters (353 feet) long. At each end were solar
arrays, two on one end one on the other, which generated 56.25 kilowatts of
power. The US laboratory was now reduced to 8.4 meters long (27.4 feet) and 4.4
meters (14.7 feet ) in diameter. The US habitation module had the same
dimensions. The European Columbus module remained at 11.8 meters (39 feet) long
by 4.5 meters (14.7 feet) in diameter. The Japanese experimental module was 10
meters (33 feet) long with a diameter of 4.2 meters (13.8 feet). Additionally,
the US had three resource nodes 5.2 meters (17 feet) long by 4.4 meters (14.5
feet ) in diameter. The third node contained a centrifuge. The Canadians
retained their mobile servicing system and the Japanese kept their Exposed
facility which was 5 meters (16.4 feet) long by 5.6 meters (18.4 feet ) wide.
The Europeans also kept their Columbus free flying facility. The crew was now
reduced from 8 to 4 with two dedicated for payloads. The 285 mile (460
kilometers) high orbit inclined at 28.5º remained essentially the same.
The schedule called for an initial launch in January of 1996 with human
tended capability in June of 1997. It was scheduled to be in permanent operation
by September 2000. The cost by 1993 had grown to $38 billion. NASA calculated at
least 18 shuttle flights were needed to assemble the station and eight
utilization flights would be necessary until it could be permanently occupied.
Once the station was permanently occupied the shuttle would visit it four or
five times per year.
By early 2000 the station would have a permanent human crew aboard working
with fully outfitted laboratories, a fully outfitted habitation module which
would result in year-round life science, microgravity, and technology research.
There would be a total of 42 payload racks of which 28 would be available to US
users. The electrical system would have 56 kilowatts of power with an average of
30 kilowatts for users. By this time the crew would consist of four people, two
of whom would be payload specialists. Their payloads would be attached at four
different points on the truss for exposure to space. There was to be an assured
crew return vehicle in case a catastrophe dictated that the crew immediately
return to Earth rather than wait for the four to five shuttle resupply visits.
By the end of the Bush Administration, the space station Freedom almost looked
like it would be able to really fly on its timetable.
During the first two Clinton Administration years the space station looked
like it would be thrown out with its resources given to some other small
program. This sort of activity had occurred with the Super Collider Project when
Congress promised scientists that when the Super Collider was shut down the
extra leftover money would go to smaller more "worthy" science
projects. When the Congressmen finished dividing up the Super Collider pie not
one cent was spent for science. This was the sort of fate awaiting the space
station, the shuttle, and probably NASA as well.
The Clinton Administration demanded that NASA make a smaller design of the
space station, set a price, and stick with it. This new version of the space
station was no longer Freedom, a Reagan Administration name, but it was now
called Space Station Alpha. The space station survived a Congress attack by one
vote. By 1993 the Russians were included into the space station as a foreign
policy scheme to keep the Soviet military in line. Thus was born the latest
version of the space station, the international space station.
THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)
In March 1993 President Clinton appointed the President's Advisory Committee
on the Redesign of the Space Station. The redesign had to consider many changes
such as to achieve earlier research capabilities; consider the Russian
involvement in all phases of station design, building, and operation; reduce
costs significantly; simplify the station construction; and streamline the
program organization. The ISS does not throw away Freedom's designs, but rather
uses 75% of its hardware plans.
The inclusion of the Russian Space Program elements in the ISS has greatly
enhanced the planning and the missions. For example, Freedom had three
laboratories, one habitation module, and two logistics module; the ISS will have
six laboratories, two habitation modules and two logistics modules. The crew
size has increased from four for Freedom to six for ISS. The pressurized volume
has increased from 23,000 feet3 to 42,443 feet3. The Space shuttle, the Soyuz,
the Ariane, and the Proton vehicles will now be able to support the station
instead of just the space shuttle. The orbital inclination of the station has
increased from 28.5 to 51.6º to include the Russian launches. This orbit will
now cover 85% of the Earth's inhabited land.
There are several benefits from the international partnership which will come
from the design, assembly, and use of the ISS. First, it is the largest
international scientific effort ever undertaken and the partnership of this
mission can serve as a mode l for future partnerships. Second, the international
partners have contributed over $3 billion to the program and have made
significant sacrifices to preserve their portion of the ISS budget. Third, in
these days of scarce resources and demands for these resources the international
sharing of the financing of space research is the only cost effective way to
accomplish it. Fourth, if the US does not continue its commitment to space
exploration, the Europeans, the Japanese, or the Russians have the ability and
the will to take over the space leadership role.
The ISS configuration description shows how truly international the ISS has
become. Of the six laboratory modules the Europeans, the Japanese and the US are
providing one each while the Russians are planning to provide three. US and
Russian solar arrays will supply 110 kilowatts of power. The US will build the
habitation module for six crew members while the Russians will supply the two
Soyuz assured crew return vehicles. The Russians will also provide the
propulsion unit and the life support and service modules; the Canadians will
provide the remote manipulator system building on their experience with the
remote manipulator arm on the space shuttle. To assemble the ISS sixteen US, 13
Russian, and five shared flights of the US with Europeans and Japan will bring
the required material to orbit in a 56 month period. The operations language
will be English and the Mission Control will be Houston with a backup of
Kaliningrad just outside Moscow. The astronauts will stay for six months aboard
the ISS an d the station will have to be reboosted about four times per year.
The timetable to launch and build the new space station will take about five
years with the following key events taking place:
November 1997: The Russian Space Agency launches the first space station
component via a Proton rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This craft
will be a power and propulsion tug known as the FGB. This vehicle is basically a
modernized version of the MIR and SALYUT cores.
December 1997: NASA will launch the second space station component on the
space shuttle. T
his will be a connecting passageway called a node module. Besides being a
passageway this node will serve as a connector to the other previous
international partners modules and it will serve as a storage area.
May 1998: The Russians will launch and dock with the FGB the first emergency
escape vehicle: a modified Soyuz capsule used to transport cosmonauts from
Baikonur to the MIR. They will also provide the Service Module launched aboard a
Proton. The Service Module will provide life support, thrusters and hygiene
facilities. The thrusters are extremely important for keeping the entire craft
in orbit. From this point, the Russians will periodically bring fuel supplies to
the Service Module via the Progress Cargo Ferry.
November 1998: The space shuttle ferries the U.S. Laboratory module from
Kennedy to the space station where it is fitted into position using the RMS. At
this point the station will be man-tended. It can be used by astronauts and
cosmonauts while aboard the shuttle and Soyuz. Fitted on the U.S. laboratory
module is a second node which carries the shuttle docking adapter and power
November 1998 - March 2000: The Russians will launch three life support and
research modules to continue experiments begun aboard the MIR. Also during this
time another Soyuz escape module will be ferried to the station. The Russians
may at this time begin ferrying over equipment from the MIR to be included in
their station modules. All throughout the construction phase the space shuttle
and the Proton will be transporting solar power panels, radiators, and trusses
to be manufactured and positioned in orbit.
March 2000: The Japanese Experimental Module (JEM) is brought to the station
via space shuttle. Additionally, the Japanese Module includes an experimental
pallet. The JEM will be docked directly into the starboard side of the second
February 2001: The European Columbus Laboratory will be launched from Kourou,
French Guiana aboard an Ariane V. Once the module reaches the station it will be
docked on the port side of the second node. Additionally, the U.S. will bring a
centrifuge to the station to be docked at the top port of the second node. The
centrifuge will be used to conduct experiments with artificial gravity.
February 2002: The space shuttle ferries the last major component for the
space station, the habitation module. This module is docked directly into the
bottom port in Node 1. This module includes the Galley, the toilet, shower and
June 2002: The assembly of the space station is completed and six crew
members are to permanently inhabit it. It will orbit about 250 miles, have a
pressurized volume of 46,200 cubic feet, and will weigh 443 tons.
The Russian inclusion into the ISS brings an extremely important space
station flight experience base into the program. On November 1, 1993 NASA and
the Russian Space Agency formally agreed upon a plan to bring Russia into the
ISS. The Russian inclusion reduces the US funding requirements by $2 billion and
enables earlier station practice by using the Russian MIR space station. There
are 10 missions planned docking the space shuttle to the MIR before the ISS era.
The Russian inclusion also accelerates the first ISS launch to December 1997;
assembly completion may occur as early as June 2002.
The Russian inclusion will bring benefits in other important areas as well.
The two extra crew members will allow four people to work on research rather
than just two; the other two crewmembers will have to run the station. Also
there will be a larger pool of humans for the life science experiments. Another
large benefit would be the increased availability of the Russian experience with
space flight research in space medicine, computational physics and plant
biology. This would help the US scientists in their research areas.
The ISS still has a long ways to go until dreams become reality, but
Tsiolkovsky's, Oberth's, Goddard's, von Braun's, and O'Neill's visions of a
permanent place for humans to inhabit in space is coming closer to reality. It
may not look like their ideas , but it will be designed, built, and occupied by
humans with similar dreams. Perhaps in 2000 when the infrastructure has been
completed the real explorations can begin.