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Why Skylab Failed On Its Launch  
User currently offlineThrust From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 2688 posts, RR: 10
Posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 5634 times:

I'm basically trying to figure out whether the Skylab 1 disaster was caused by the design of Skylab itself, or if the Saturn V was just an extremely bad choice for launching it. Someone I was discussing with claimed the G forces of a Saturn V launch were too extreme for it to handle.


Fly one thing; Fly it well
11 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinenomadd22 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 1846 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 5623 times:

The meteoroid shield deployed while the launcher was still thrusting and ripped one of the solar arrays loose and blocked the other from deploying. I never was clear if it was a failed latch or a command that caused the deployment.
I'd call it a malfunction. If it was a disaster there wouldn't have been three successful Manned missions. NASA tends to be at it's best when it has potential disaster to fix.



Andy Goetsch
User currently offlinerwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2338 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 5526 times:
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Quoting Thrust (Thread starter):
I'm basically trying to figure out whether the Skylab 1 disaster was caused by the design of Skylab itself, or if the Saturn V was just an extremely bad choice for launching it.

And just what, pray tell, would NASA have used to launch a 170,000lb space station if not the S-V? (Given that the "wet" S-IVB/lab concept had been abandoned at that point).

And honestly, just how stupid do you think the guys at NASA are? Sure they can screw up like everyone else, but how can even imagine that they didn't consider the launch stresses? That's utterly fundamental. Do you think they built it, and said, "hmmm... lets put it on an S-V and see what happens!" Seriously?

That being said, it's never been clear why the micrometeoroid shield deployed a minute into the flight. Best guesses are a faulty latch allowing the cover to come off in flight, or a spurious signal from the control system causing the latches to release.


User currently offlinemffoda From United States of America, joined Apr 2010, 1071 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 5484 times:

Quoting rwessel (Reply 2):
And just what, pray tell, would NASA have used to launch a 170,000lb space station if not the S-V?

I agree rwessel... But don't you think you're being a little hard on the beaver?
 



harder than woodpecker lips...
User currently offlineThrust From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 2688 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 5220 times:

Quoting rwessel (Reply 2):

Forgive me if I miscommunicated that I actually believed the Saturn V was a bad choice. I think the Saturn V was a perfect choice. Somebody on youtube was trying to convince me otherwise, so I came on here hoping that the "voice of reason" would explain that away, because while I was fairly certain I could explain it away, I needed a second opinion. No, I don't think NASA was that incompetent, and no, I don't think NASA just bet tons of money on a gamble.



Fly one thing; Fly it well
User currently offlinerwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2338 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 5162 times:
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Quoting Thrust (Reply 4):
Forgive me if I miscommunicated that I actually believed the Saturn V was a bad choice. I think the Saturn V was a perfect choice. Somebody on youtube was trying to convince me otherwise, so I came on here hoping that the "voice of reason" would explain that away, because while I was fairly certain I could explain it away, I needed a second opinion. No, I don't think NASA was that incompetent, and no, I don't think NASA just bet tons of money on a gamble.

My apologies, I appear to have read more into your post than was intended.

Skylab was a modified S-IVB, which had obviously flown a number of times as part of the S-V stack. The original plan was to launch it on an S-IC, and actually have it an active stage – hence the metal mesh floors to avoid blocking the flow of fuel inside the “fuel tanks”. In the end it lost its J-2 and associated gear, and was flown dry instead.

To be sure, much of the stuff they bolted to the outside was new, and obviously some of that (specifically the shroud) failed. But the notion that "forces of a Saturn V launch were too extreme for it to handle" are a bit silly. The S-V didn't have particularly high G forces (as evidenced by humans flying on it), nor particularly high aerodynamic stresses or vibration levels. It was just particularly large.

As a general rule, nobody builds spacecraft boosters* with excessive values of any of those, for the simple fact that the payload needs to survive the trip to orbit. Sure, you could build a launch vehicle that hit 20G on the way up (and all other things being equal, that might well reduce the required size of the booster), but think of the enormous structural penalties that would bring.


*Not necessarily true for ICBMs


User currently offlineconnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 6, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 4877 times:

Quoting rwessel (Reply 5):
To be sure, much of the stuff they bolted to the outside was new, and obviously some of that (specifically the shroud) failed. But the notion that "forces of a Saturn V launch were too extreme for it to handle" are a bit silly. The S-V didn't have particularly high G forces (as evidenced by humans flying on it), nor particularly high aerodynamic stresses or vibration levels. It was just particularly large.

I tend to think the Apollo 2 and 13 launches were near failures due to vibration - the 'pogo effect'. In fact on 13 the S-II centreline engine cut out during ascent and they had to burn the outer units a little longer.



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User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3516 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 4768 times:
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Quoting connies4ever (Reply 6):
I tend to think the Apollo 2 and 13 launches were near failures due to vibration - the 'pogo effect'. In fact on 13 the S-II centreline engine cut out during ascent and they had to burn the outer units a little longer.

That would be Apollo 6 that had two engines out on the S-II not Apollo 2



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User currently offlineconnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 8, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 4749 times:

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 7):
That would be Apollo 6 that had two engines out on the S-II not Apollo 2

My bad, you're correct.   



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineThrust From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 2688 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 4523 times:

Quoting rwessel (Reply 5):

Apology accepted. Thanks for your input. Learned something about g forces.



Fly one thing; Fly it well
User currently offlineThrust From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 2688 posts, RR: 10
Reply 10, posted (2 years 11 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 4519 times:

Quoting connies4ever (Reply 6):

As I recall, Apollo 6 also had engine failures due not only to pogo the way some of the systems were hooked up..I'm not certain of exactly what it was, but I remember somebody on here mentioning it...something like fuel lines or something like it. I thought that some of the SII's systems were reworked or redesigned slightly after Apollo 6 and that the way they were hooked up contributed partially to engine failure in addition to pogo effect. This could be wrong, so if it is, feel free to correct me. Other than that, I'm not sure what else was done to fix the pogo problem. Whatever was done, if anything, it appears it obviously didn't work since it reoccured on Apollo 13. But after Apollo 13, I thought the pogo problem was fixed for good. It was never an issue on the next 4 launches to my knowledge.



Fly one thing; Fly it well
User currently offlineAreopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1369 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (2 years 11 months 1 week 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 4258 times:

I recall reading long ago that due to budget cuts, the Skylab design was not wind-tunnel tested as much as it should have been, and it was air loads that caused the failures.

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