Saturday, January 18, 2014

NASA to Salvage Skylab?



In Issue #14 (June 1978) of Starlog there was an article about the possibility of salvaging the NASA Skylab Space Station.

“NASA, however, may step in and save the day. The organization is currently studying plans to return to this "Flying Dutchman" of space and attach a rocket stage to the craft for propulsion. The hundred-ton satellite will either be deliberately plunged, kamikaze-like, into the empty south Indian Ocean, or will be boosted back up into a more stable orbit for ultimate repair and re-use. The idea of salvaging Skylab is an exciting prospect for NASA. Coupled with the upcoming Space Shuttle program, Skylab offers the opportunity for long duration space exploration; as well, it could become a valuable space resource which NASA's tight budget could otherwise ill afford. “

“Current plans call for the fifth Space Shuttle flight, early in 1980, to rendezvous with the Skylab. Holding a position several hundred yards away from the derelict craft, the  astronauts will guide a self-propelled robot stage up to the main docking port. Once fastened to the docking area, the rocket stage can be fired either forwards or backwards, depending on the planned fate of the satellite. “

NASA did study the possibility of re-using Skylab and developed a plan that would have used several shuttle flights to re-furbish that station. Unfortunately the 1980 date for the fifth shuttle flight proved to be overly optimistic. The first shuttle didn’t launch until April of 1981 and the 5th flight didn’t happen until November of 1982. The un-controlled re-entry of the station happened on July 11, 1979. Pieces of the station impacted land in western Australia.

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