Thursday, April 19, 2012

Skylab 1 press release from Martin Marietta

This week I wanted to post something from Skylab 1 — the mission that launched the space station itself.

This March 1973 press release from the Martin Marietta corporation (today, part of Lockheed Martin) shows the station’s multiple docking adapter (MDA) nearing completion. This component provided two ports at which an Apollo spacecraft could dock. Generally, the capsule would use the port located along the axis of the station—visible at the top of this image—and transfer crew and supplies. It would then remain docked there to provide the crew with a vehicle for their return to earth at the end of the mission. The second port, projecting out from the side of the module, provided a place to dock a rescue craft if necessary (thankfully, it never was).

The MDA was 5.1 metres (17 ft) long, 3 metres (10 ft) in diameter, and weighed 6,210 kg (13,800 lb). The press release also points out that it contained 7,000 electrical connections and 6 miles (9.6 km) of wiring!

Massive though it was, the MDA was a relatively small piece of Skylab, and an even tinier part of the launch vehicle that carried the station to orbit. It’s the third item from the top of the stack in this diagram released by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in connection with the launch:

Note that in addition to building the MDA, Martin Marietta  was responsible for the overall integration of the station components produced by other contractors.

Image copyrights:  Although issued by Martin Marietta, I believe the photo in the press release is actually a cropped version of a NASA image (72-H-1393). As a work of the US federal government, that would place it in the public domain. The diagram of the launch vehicle is from a NASA publication and therefore also in the public domain.

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