STS-9B - Expand The Lab - June 1980
Authors Note: This will be a modified version of NASA's plan to revitalize Skylab for the Shuttle Program. This is Episode 2 of 4 As I 've already conducted Skylab Reboost. Perhaps I'll expand on the idea of Shuttle Skylab, but I want to first conduct the missions NASA had planned, the delivery of the Nodal Module, dedicated refurbishment missions, and the power module. I personally plan to deliver the power module and then conduct refurbishment missions as to allow Skylab to be at full power. Bottom line, real -ish Mission, modified for artistic liberty . Enjoy!
After a resounding success with STS-2A, and the Teleoperated Retrieval System, Skylab was now safely in a higher orbit and NASA had a station with nearly 12,500 cubic feet of pressurized volume and a reusable space truck at their disposal.
It isn't all good news however. Skylab has been in orbit for more than 9 years and it solar panels have degraded significantly. Compounded with the fact that Skylab lost its port solar array, Skylab had a serious lack of power preventing it from being simply reactivated. The solution was to add an additional power module with two massive solar array wings.
Preceding this addition, Skylab would first be outfitted with a Nodal Module, proving both adequate clearance and compatible docking hardware for the Space Shuttle. Now far a beyond traditional probe and drogue port of the Apollo Era, the Space Shuttle sports the new Androgynous Peripheral Attachment System or APAS-75 docking port created jointly by the Soviet Union and the US for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. 5 days prior to launch. Houston released the latches and allowed the TRS to undock from the forward port of Skylab. After backing off from the station, Skylab was ready for the guests.
Flown by Challenger STS-9B tucked away in the payload bay sits the Skylab Docking Module, featuring 1 Male Apollo Docking Mechanism to attach to Skylab's forward port and then 1 APAS-75 docking port 1 facing forward. Radially 4 APAS-L ports (This is not a real port just one I "invented” for the sake of the design) A stripped down version of APAS 75 strictly for berthing components. In addition is a Spacelab Pallet, carrying four docking adapters each featuring APAS-75 and APAS-L ports. With a crew of 6, mission control stood by for the liftoff in the evening.
With a target inclination of 50 degrees, Space Shuttle Challenger is in the" heads down wings level" position on the launch azimuth, next phase being booster separation 2 minutes 7 seconds into flight, after which for 6 minutes it will use the 3 main engines to coast the rest of the way to orbit.
After reaching orbit, the STS-9B crew conducted burns to perfect the rendezvous course with Skylab. After completing maneuvers the crew situated themselves to retrieve the SDM from Challengers payload bay.
After berthing the SDM to the Shuttle Docking System, the crew can begin attaching the docking adapters to the radial ports.
Now the the SDM was completely outfitted with its docking adapters, the crew now coasted until they met up with Skylab.
After two days in a rendezvous orbit, Challenger's crew could clearly see Skylab through the windows and now began approach and docking procedures. Lets listen in.
Houston. we are 75 meters out.
Rodger, Challenger. Proceed past the hold point.
Houston, Proceeding past the hold point.
50 Meters out
Houston, 10 meters out, holding.
Challenger, remain holding for a moment, you will be entering a brief blackout period.
Rodger, Houston. See you on the other side.
~143 Seconds Later
Challenger, this is Houston, you may resume your final approach.
Rodger, Houston. Resuming Approach
Houston, Soft Capture Confirmed.
Challenger, prepare for Probe Retract and Hard Capture. Welcome to Skylab.
After Skylab 4's departure in February of 1974 STS-9B is the first manned Spacecraft to dock to Skylab in 6 years. However, due to Skylab's power deficit, the crew will not be entering station as Life Support systems have been long deactivated. The crew however will demonstrate pressurizing the intermediate space between the APAS-75 ahead of actually entering the SDM on future mission. The next scheduled mission to Skylab, STS-16C will enter the SDM but not enter Skylab itself, saving the grand reveal for STS-21D. However, the crew of STS-9B does get one nice surprise. A 1 man EVA to establish connections between the SDM, docking adapters, and forward Skylab port.
Lastly, the crew of STS-9B will verify joint control between Skylab and Space Shuttle Challenger, affirming the ability for possible reboots using the Space Shuttle Orbiter itself. No longer compatible with the current TRS stationed in orbit, a mission will be launched with the express purpose of replacing the current TRS with a new model with an APAS-75 port, then recover the old TRS for refurbishment.
After exhibiting complete control authority over Skylab, Challenger repositions Skylab in its normal orientation and prepares to undock.
Challenger and the crew after backing away reorient for an OMS burn to lower the orbit for reentry preparations over a two day period.
After closing the Payload Bay doors, Challenger prepared for it entry burn to land at the KSC, in an hour's time.
Challenger landed after spending 9 days in orbit, landed at Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33. Challenger would be refurbished and see several missions before its next flight to Skylab in early 1982.
Hope you liked this installation of Shuttle Adventures! I plan on covering the Shuttle-Skylab more especially with the focus on the Skylab IVA by Zorg! The next mission I conduct will be presented in a less worded format, only having a brief introduction and conclusion section. I'm thinking a Shuttle Mir mission, its been too long since I've flown to Mir . Until then, So long!