NASA Office of Logic Design

NASA Office of Logic Design

A scientific study of the problems of digital engineering for space flight systems,
with a view to their practical solution.

2005 MAPLD International Conference

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Washington, D.C.

September 7-9, 2005

Panel Session

Thursday Evening, September 8, 2005

We have discussed and tackled the following issues at MAPLD:

"Why is Mars So Hard"
"Why Is Software So Hard?"
"Why Is Space Exploration So Hard? The Roles of Man and Machine"

which naturally leads into ...

"Why Are Space Stations So Hard?

A Discussion of the Technical, Programmatic, and Political Factors
That Have Lead To Successes and Failures Over the Last Three Decades
and Implications for Future Private Sector and Government Facilities

Historical Perspective and Panel Moderator -- Roger Launius: Chair, Division of Space History, National Air and Space Museum
Historical Perspective and Panel Moderator: Roger Launius
Chair, Division of Space History
National Air and Space Museum

Keith Cowing Editor, NASA Watch (presentation)
Alphonso Diaz "Member of the NASA Senior Staff; formerly the Associate Administrator," NASA Headquarters
William Dwyer Engineer, Freedom and ISS
NASA Johnson Space Center (presentation)
Chris Faranetta Vice President, Orbital Space Flight Program
Space Adventures, Ltd.
Rick Tumlinson Founder, Space Frontier Foundation

Pictures from the Panel Session

This is a sketch of Skylab, as drawn by George E. Mueller, NASA associate administrator for Manned Space Flight. This concept drawing was created at a meeting at the Marshall Space Flight Center on August 19, 1966. The image details the station's major elements. In 1970, the station became known as Skylab. Three manned Skylab missions (Skylab 2 in May 1973; Skylab 3 in July 1973; and Skylab 4 in November 1973) were flown on which experiments were conducted in:space science, earth resources, life sciences, space technology, and student projects.

A 1960 concept image of the United States Air Force's proposed Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) that was intended to test the military usefulness of having humans in orbit. The station's baseline configuration was that of a two-person Gemini B spacecraft that could be attached to a laboratory vehicle. The structure was planned to launch onboard a Titan IIIC rocket. The station would be used for a month and then the astronauts could return to the Gemini capsule for transport back to Earth. The first launch of the MOL was scheduled for December 15, 1969, but was then pushed back to the fall of 1971. The program was cancelled by Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird in 1969 after the estimated cost of the program had risen in excess of $3 billion, and had already spent $1.3 billion. Some of the military astronauts selected for the program then transferred to NASA and became some of the first people to fly the Space Shuttle, including Richard Truly, who later became the NASA Administrator. A view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis departing the Mir Russian Space Station. This image was taken during the STS-71 mission by cosmonauts aboard their Soyuz TM transport vehicle. The scene is back dropped by the Earth's limb.

This is a concept drawing of an orbit and launch facility. It was to use a nuclear SNAP-II nuclear power supply on the end of the long telescoping boom. Nuclear reactors were considered dangerous, which is why in this concept drawing it was located so far away from the habitat part of the station. Creators envisioned the structure being built in orbit to allow assembly of the station in orbit which could be then larger than anything that could be launched from Earth. The two main modules were to be 33 feet in diameter and 40 feet in length. When combined the modules would create a four deck facility, 2 decks to be used for laboratory space and 2 decks for operations and living quarters. The facility also allowed for servicing and launch of a space vehicle. Though the station was designed to operate in micro- gravity, it would also have an artificial gravity capability.

Unlike many other early space station concepts, this design actually made it out of the concept phase and into production, though no models were ever flown. This particular station was 30-feet and expandable. It was designed to be taken to outer space in a small package and then inflate in orbit. The station could, in theory, have been big enough for 1 to 2 people to use for a long period of time. A similar 24 foot station was built by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation for NASA test use. The concept of space inflatables was revived in the 1990s.

On June 28, 1958, Charles Lundquist (right) gave a presentation on orbital trajectories at the Army Ballestic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama to Hermann Oberth (left) and Wernher Von Braun (center). Von Braun was an active proponent of utilizing space stations as "base camps" to other planets and satellites. Hermann Oberth was Von Braun's mentor and was a pioneer in suggesting that space stations would be essential if humans wished to travel to other planets. Charles Lundquist was the chief of the Physics and Astrophysics branch within the former Research Projects Division at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Some related reading:

  1. We Are Not the First: Space Station History

  2. Almaz

  3. Almaz space station (OPS) 11F71

  4. Skylab

  5. Salyut 2

  6. Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars by Roger D. Launius

  7. Spaceflight :The International Space Station and Its Predecessors

  8. SKYLAB, Our First Space Station, SP-400

  9. The Unsung Astronaut: Robert Lawrence's sacrifice, and why it took so long to be honored

  10. MSFC Skylab Lessons Learned, NASA TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM TM X-64860, July 1974

  11. Lessons learned on the Skylab program (JSC) - 1974, NASA-TM-X-72920

  12. Skylab Lessons Learned as Applicable to a Large Space Station - dissertation submitted to the faculty of The School of Engineering and Architecture of the Catholic University of America for the Degree Doctor of Engineering by William C. Schneider, Washington, D.C., 1976.

  13. More coming soon ...


2005 MAPLD International Conference Home Page

We invite your participation in our Panel Session.


Richard B. Katz
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Home - NASA Office of Logic Design
Last Revised: February 03, 2010
Web Grunt: Richard Katz