posted on Jun, 27 2017 @ 08:53 PM
I recently came across a copy of my first published article on spaceflight policy, suggesting a mission [a manned outpost operating at lunar distance]
that in many ways outlined the current NASA ideas of the ‘Gateway’ station. The article title refers to the ‘orbital workshop’ design for the
S-4B stage that became Skylab, that in an earlier incarnation used a fueled stage that went into orbit, then vented remaining propellant before the
crew entered it. “Deep Orbit” in the title is an abbreviation of “deep space orbit”.
Key quotation: “What must we know before we can commit ourselves to launching manned flights to the planets? We must know what only this mission
can tell us…. Low-Earth-orbit tests are not sufficient to insure confidence in the entire system.”
No, I'm not claiming to be the original inventor of the idea -- just that if you come up with lots of ideas and live long enough, NASA may have tried
and abandoned every OTHER idea until only yours is left [grin]!
Workshop in deep orbit
Astronautics & Aeronautics
March 1970, pp. 26-27 [Letters]
Attention has been focused on three types of orbits for early manned space stations – low Earth orbit, synchronous orbit, and lunar orbit. There
appears to be a fourth class of orbit which has several decided advantages depending on mission requirements.
It is my proposal to place a manned “orbital workshop” into a very high Earth orbit, an orbit varying from 100,000 to 500,000 mi. high. Such a
station could at perigee investigate the interaction of the Earth’ magnetosphere with the interplanetary media, and at its apogee investigate those
interplanetary fields in their natural environment, in interplanetary space. Biological investigations of circadian rhythm on organisms could be
carried out on a station that is guaranteed to be free of any of Earth’s temporal cycles This condition is not really attained in near-Earth orbits,
which simply substitute a 90-minute cycle for a 24-hour one.
Launch requirements are surprisingly simple, and require less DV than the launch of a station into either synchronous orbit, or lunar orbit. The
mechanism is lunar flyby, a method by which NASA has been dumping spent SIVB stages into solar orbit since 1968. As a matter of fact, the SIVB of
Apollo 12 did not receive adequate control shortly after spacecraft separation, and hence passed the Moon several thousand miles further behind the
limb than planned, which resulted in it entering an orbit of approximately 100,000 by 535,000 mi. with a period of about 42 days. Optical observations
of that stage, by the way, should be carefully made to observe the perturbations of its orbit due to solar and lunar influence.
A preliminary interplanetary observation station, which is what the space station would become, could be established by reviving the ‘wet’ SIVB
concept and launching the stage on a Saturn V. Equipment in the payload might be similar to that listed below, by weight, in pounds:
Command Module/astronauts 13,000
Service Module [empty] 12,000
SM experiment packet 3,000
SM retrofire fuel 10,000
SIVB empty weight 30,000
Total station weight 106,000
The crew of 3 – 5 men should include spacecraft commander / flight engineer, flight surgeon / biologist, and physicist / astronomer. The Command and
Service Module would need a three-month dwell time, which is what is being planned in any case for the AAP program. Fuel required would be only that
necessary for deorbit from 500,000 mi. altitude. Reentry velocity would not be significantly greater than that encountered on lunar return.
Questions of value arise again, and we are faced with the same old manned vs. unmanned flight dispute. I would like to point out, however, that there
are no unmanned space systems. Some systems are operated by men from the ground, via complicated yet limited data links. Other systems men accompany
into space, where they operate them and process the data for return to Earth. The argument in favor of such a mission as I have proposed bases itself
on other factors too: What must we know before we can commit ourselves to launching manned flights to the planets? We must know what only this
mission can tell us: biological and psychological effects on man of deep-space isolation, navigational and observational methods from deep space, and
system survivability in deep space [which includes what to do during a solar storm when you can’t come home – the SIVB should be equipped with a
”storm cellar” for emergencies].
Such a test flight, using modified Apollo/Saturn hardware, should come in the 1973 – 76 period if it is to be at all helpful in designing our
interplanetary spacecraft. Low-Earth-orbit tests are not sufficient to insure confidence in the entire system.
More detailed analyses, including computer simulations of launch and deorbit trajectories, are left to the reader.
James E. Oberg