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Skylab Rescue

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Title: Skylab Rescue  
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Skylab Rescue

Skylab Rescue
Drawing of a space capsule with astronauts sitting with their backs to the floor on two layers, three on the top and two beneath
Skylab Rescue Command Module Diagram
Mission type Crew rescue
Operator NASA
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft Apollo CSM-119
Manufacturer North American Aviation
Crew size 2 at launch
5 at landing
Members Vance D. Brand
Don L. Lind
Start of mission
Launch date On standby
August 1973 - February 1974
Rocket Saturn IB AS-208/209
Launch site Kennedy LC-39B
Docking with Skylab
Docking port Forward

Skylab rescue crew portrait (Left to right; Vance Brand and Don Lind)

The Skylab Rescue Mission (also SL-R)[1]:iii was a backup rescue flight as part of a contingency plan for the Skylab space station.[2][3] It used a modified Apollo Command Module that could be launched with a crew of two and return a crew of five.[1]:1-1[4]


  • History 1
    • AS 208 1.1
    • AS 209 1.2
  • Crew 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Plans for outfitting an Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) as a space rescue vehicle date back to November 1965 when North American Rockwell technicians conceived the possibility of a rescue mission for astronauts trapped in lunar orbit.[5][6] After a rescue mission in Earth orbit was depicted in the 1969 film Marooned, the company revived the concept in November 1970.[2] Marshall Space Flight Center issued a formal Mission Requirements document on 17 May 1972, with subsequent revisions.[1]:iii The standard Skylab Command Module accommodated a crew of three with storage lockers on the aft bulkhead for resupply of experiment film and other equipment, as well as the return of exposed film, data tapes and experiment samples. To convert the standard CSM to a rescue vehicle, the storage lockers were removed and replaced with two crew couches to seat a total of five crewmen.[4]

AS 208

After Skylab 3 was launched, the crew's CSM developed a problem with two of its Reaction Control System thruster quads. They were leaking fuel, one failing before the CSM docked with the station and another on August 2, six days later. The malfunctions only left two available quads, and while the spacecraft could operate with just one, the leaks posed a possible risk to other systems.[7]:208

NASA first considered bringing the crew home immediately.[3] However, because the astronauts were safe on the station with ample supplies and because plans for a rescue flight existed,[7]:209 the mission continued while the Saturn IB rocket AS 208 with CSM 119[4] was assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Launch Complex 39 for possible use. It was at one point rolled out to LC-39B.

NASA announced on August 4, 1973 that Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 backup crewmen Vance Brand and Don Lind would fly any rescue mission; they had immediately begun training for the flight once the second quad had failed on August 2. After engineers found that the leaks would not disable the spacecraft, the two men used simulators to test reentry using two quads. If ground personnel worked 24 hours a day and skipped some tests, the mission could launch on September 10,[3][8]:299 and would last no more than five days.[1]:2–6[7]:208–209 The astronauts would attempt to prepare Skylab for further use but returning experimental data and diagnosing the cause of the problem were more important,[1]:2-1 with Lind choosing what would be brought back.[7]:211[9] Although Skylab had two docking ports the primary one would be used if possible, jettisoning the Skylab crew's CSM if necessary.[1]:2-2,3,8

Within hours of the failure of the second quad, however, NASA had decided to cancel the rescue mission. Beyond the space agency's conclusion that the failed quads would not disable the Skylab 3 CSM, Brand and Lind had already shown during their training as backup Skylab crewmen that a reentry with failed quads was safe. They continued to train for a rescue mission, as well as for their backup roles,[7]:210–211[9] but the Skylab 3 crew was able to complete its full 59 day mission on the station and safely return to earth using the two functional RCS thruster quads.[10]:103–4

AS 209

Black-and-white picture from inside a tall building with a space capsule being lifted from the top of a rocket
The Skylab Rescue CSM is removed from its Saturn IB Launch vehicle following the successful recovery of Skylab 4.

After the Skylab 4 launch, another rescue flight was assembled as a backup contingency. The Saturn IB rocket AS 209 was assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Launch Complex 39 for possible use. It also used the CSM 119 Command Module that was to be launched with Brand and Lind.

There were also plans for a short 20-day Skylab 5 flight that would use this backup CSM. The crew, consisting of Brand, Lind, and their fellow Skylab backup crewman William B. Lenoir, would have performed some scientific research and boosted the station into a higher orbit for use by the Space Shuttle.

AS 209 and CSM 119 were later used as a backup to the ASTP mission. Both are now on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. CSM 119 is located in the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The Saturn IB booster for AS 209 is currently located in the Visitor Complex's Rocket Garden. It is displayed horizontally, mated to an Apollo FVV (Facilities Verification Vehicle) which was formerly displayed at the VAB's Visitor Complex c. October 1968. In 2007, after sitting untouched for over 30 years, NASA engineers used the command module for studies on the spacecraft's life support adapter assembly[11] - the projecting aerodynamic fairing that allows oxygen, water, and electricity to flow from the Service Module to the Command Module. This was in support of the design and construction of a similar system on the new Orion spacecraft, which resembles the Skylab Rescue configuration.


Position Astronaut
Commander Vance D. Brand
First spaceflight
Pilot Don L. Lind
First spaceflight

Brand flew in 1975 during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project as command module pilot, later commanding three Space Shuttle missions (STS-5 in 1982, STS-41-B in 1984, and STS-35 in 1990). Lind would wait another decade before he flew as a mission specialist on STS-51-B in 1985.

A metallic gray space capsule connected to a cylindrical module lies on its side as a museum exhibit
CSM 119 on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center 
A large white rocket, with the letters U,S and A written vertically down it in red, lies on its side outdoors
SA 209 on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f " Mission Requirements, Skylab Rescue Mission, SL-R" NASA, 24 August 1973.
  2. ^ a b Wade, Mark. "Skylab Rescue". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  3. ^ a b c "Skylab's New Crisis: A Rescue Mission?" TIME, 13 August 1973. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  4. ^ a b c Wade, Mark. "Apollo Rescue CSM". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  5. ^ "4-Man Apollo Rescue Mission" Nasa Technical Reports Server. Retrieved 2011-04-18
  6. ^ Portree, David S.F. (2012-10-06). "Beyond Apollo: Apollo Lunar Orbit Rescue (1965)". Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Shayler, David J. (2001). Skylab: America's Space Station. Berlin: Springer.  
  8. ^ Benson, Charles Dunlap and William David Compton. Living and Working in Space: A History of Skylab. NASA publication SP-4208.
  9. ^ a b Don L. Lind oral history transcript, NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, 27 May 2005.
  10. ^ Belew, Leland. F. (editor) Skylab, Our First Space Station NASA publication SP-400.
  11. ^ " Using History to Design the Future" NASA, retrieved 2011-03-09

External links

  • Skylab Rescue Space Vehicle Countdown
  • Skylab Rescue Space Vehicle flight readiness test
  • Skylab Rescue Space Vehicle OAT no. 1 plugs in test
  • Launch vehicle test and checkout plan. - Volume 2: Saturn 1B launch vehicle Skylab R (rescue) and AS-208 flow plan and listings
  • Skylab hardware evaluation CSM rescue
  • Structural analysis Skylab spacecraft. Addendum A: Rescue vehicle
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