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NASA Space Science Technology

How Some Creative Hacking Kept Skylab From Becoming Space Junk (hackaday.com) 69

szczys writes: Skylab was close to becoming space junk. You may remember it crashing back to earth as space junk but that was after it was used for several research missions. What you probably don't know is that the original concept was to build it from a spent upper rocket stage that is normally just junked after launch. The module that was sent up in place of a 3rd rocket stage was damaged during launch, making it unusable until some very creative repairs paved the way for manned missions. The damage included problems with thermal shielding that turned it into an oven — nearly cooking all materials and supplies inside — and damage to solar panels which put a big hit on the station's power budget. Creative solutions and astronaut tenacity when docking and performing EVAs are all that saved Skylab from being scrapped without ever being used.
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How Some Creative Hacking Kept Skylab From Becoming Space Junk

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  • it was space junk. it crashed as space junk.
    • After it crashed, it was technically just junk. Or, according to the Shire of Esperance, litter.

      • Solving the power problem would prove to be a little more on the hackish side. Telemetry indicated that the surviving array was jammed with debris, and a plan was hatched to conduct a âoestand-up EVAâ through the CSM hatch to clear the blockage. But tools would be needed, and nothing in NASAâ(TM)s tool crib fit the bill. Looking for inspiration, engineers from Marshall Spaceflight Center raided a local hardware store and found a pole-mounted tree pruner. A flurry of calls to local manufacturers resulted in selecting a cable cutter and a prying tool from a company manufacturing tools for, ironically enough, the power industry. The tools were quickly modified, mounted to a collapsible 3 m pole, and shipped to the Cape.

        The article is about things like this. Space is unforgiving . Things can and do happen. And at times it comes to "hacking the s**t out of space" .

    • by captjc ( 453680 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @12:06AM (#50741207)

      Well she was walking all alone
      Down the street in the alley
      Her name was Sally
      I never touched her, she never saw it

      When she was hit by space junk
      When she was smashed by space junk
      When she was killed by space junk

      "In New York, Miami beach
      Heavy metal fell in Cuba
      Angola, Saudi Arabia
      On Christmas eve", said Norad

      A soviet sputnik hit Africa
      India, Venezuela, in Texas, Kansas
      It's falling fast Peru too
      It keeps coming, it keeps coming, it keeps coming

      And now I'm mad about space junk
      I'm all burned out about space junk
      Walk and talk about space junk
      It smashed my baby's head, space junk
      And now my sally's dead, space junk

  • At the time I was about 9 I suppose. I recorded the live news coverage of the event from TV on a cassette recorder. It was a pretty big deal. No 24 hour news channels at the time. All three of our channels were covering the crash down live preempting all of the normal daily shows.

  • Sure, he had a lot of help, but he was the person who physically heaved on one of the stuck solar panels until it deployed.

    I once had the opportunity to speak with Conrad for a couple of hours during breakout time at a meeting we were both at. He's probably better known for the Apollo 12 mission, where he set down the LM a short walk from the Surveyor 3 which had landed on the Moon a couple of years prior. To me, especially at the time, that was a more significant achievement than Aldrin and Armstrong's -

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @01:43AM (#50741469) Journal

    Back in my misspent youth, when I was cutting my hacking teeth, I processed some Skylab multispectral scanner data.

    The scanner at first seemed an oddball: Instead of sweeping crossrange while the lab orbited, it swept in a cone-shaped fan somewhat forward of the flight path.

    "Why?" you may ask. (I did, too.) Because that way the line-of-sight always passed through the same amount of atmosphere at the same angle from zenith (though at different angles to the sun - which you'd have gotten anyway, though differently). This equalized the absorption, and thus the spectral distortion, of the light from pixels at different distances from the flight track. Very cute.

    It also made the scan artifacts on the geometry-corrected output into a series of arcs. Very odd looking.

  • It's a fucking tech site; you'd think we could at least agree here that "hacking" is not the same thing as "repairing".

    And for God's sake, attaching a tool at the end of 3m pole to clear some debris isn't hacking in ANY sense.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @10:47AM (#50743567) Homepage Journal

    We spend gazillions of dollars to build stuff, and then via neglect, let it burn up, essentially setting cash on fire. After more than 100 Billion, in 2020, we're going to essentially do the same thing to the ISS.

    We've followed the same pattern as Skylab -- we launch a space station, and then, because we don't have a working launch system, have no way to get to the thing, so we let it fall and burn up.

    After putting up Skylab, we ended Apollo. Then there was a huge delay getting the Shuttle to work, so, we let Skylab fall. There was talk about launching something to shove into a higher orbit, but those plans were nixed.

    Now we've got the ISS, and guess what, we ended the Shuttle and there's the same huge delay to get the next launch system working. So we're going to let the ISS fall and burn.

    It seems wasteful. You would think at least the solar panels or other equipment could be joined together or repurposed. If we can't tie together bits and pieces of things that are already in space, we will never learn to build anything significant in space.

    • Due to micrometeor damage, there isn't much use to the items after the end of their life. I suppose we should boost the ISS to a higher orbit, if as nothing more than a museum, but it is just not worth keeping up there to continue using it.

Optimization hinders evolution.