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see space explorationspace exploration,
the investigation of physical conditions in space and on stars, planets, and other celestial bodies through the use of artificial satellites (spacecraft that orbit the earth), space probes (spacecraft that pass through the solar system and that may or may not
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; space stationspace station
or space platform,
artificial earth satellite, usually manned, that is placed in a fixed orbit and can serve as a base for astronomical observations; zero-gravity materials processing; satellite assembly, refueling, and repair; or, possibly, as weapons
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(skÿ -lab) A large crewed US space station launched on May 14 1973 into a 435-km circular Earth orbit, inclined at about 50° to the equator. The station – Skylab 1 – provided an environment in which people could live and work under controlled but weightless conditions. During 1973 and 1974 three three-man crews were ferried to and from the station by Apollo spacecraft consisting of a command and service module. The manned missions are known as Skylab 2, 3, and 4. With the Apollo craft docked, the overall length was 36 meters and the weight 82 000 kg; the orbital workshop was 14.7 meters long and 6.6 meters in diameter. Power was obtained from several panels of solar cells.

Physiological and psychological reactions to weightlessness were carefully monitored and studied, and ability to perform experiments was tested. In over 513 man-days in space 73 experiments were conducted. The instruments of the Apollo Telescope Mount provided the majority of the observational data, other work including technological, biological, and materials-processing experiments. Over 180 000 solar photographs and 40 000 Earth-resources pictures were taken. The 740 hours spent on solar studies and 215 hours of astrophysical investigation, made above the Earth's distorting and absorbing atmosphere, led to great advances in astronomy.

NASA had assumed that Skylab would stay in orbit for 10 years, with the space shuttle being used to reboost it for further use or deboost it for controlled reentry and crash-landing in the Pacific. The orbit decayed, however, and despite rescue attempts by NASA the craft made an uncontrolled but safe landing in 1979 in the Indian Ocean, with fragments landing in Western Australia.

Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a US manned orbital space station and its space program, carried out in 1973 and 1974. Skylab was launched into a near-earth orbit on May 14, 1973. The altitude of the orbit was 434 km at perigee and 437 km at apogee, with an orbital inclination of 50°. Three crews of astronauts were transported to Sky-lab aboard Apollo spacecraft: astronauts C. Conrad, Jr., J. Kerwin, and P. Weitz manned the station from May 25 to June 22, 1973; astronauts A. Bean, O. Garriott, and J. Lousma were on board from July 28 to Sept. 26, 1973; and astronauts G. Carr, W. Pogue, and E. Gibson worked on board Skylab from Nov. 16, 1973, to Feb. 8, 1974. The principal task of all three Skylab missions was the study of human adaptation to the conditions of prolonged space flight and the subsequent re-adaptation to the earth’s gravity. Other tasks included observation of the sun, study of the earth’s natural resources, and conduction of engineering experiments.

The weight of Skylab in orbit was 77 tons, and after docking with the Apollo spacecraft, approximately 90 tons. The overall length was 24.6 m, and the maximum diameter was 6.6 m. Skylab consisted of a main module, an instrument bay, an airlock module, a docking adapter, and a platform with astronomical instruments.

The body of the main module was based on the third stage of a Saturn 5 launch vehicle, used in the Apollo program for manned flights to the moon. The main module had the shape of a cylinder and was divided by a partition into a laboratory bay and living quarters. The laboratory bay was connected to the airlock module and contained scientific equipment. The living quarters had compartments for sleeping and exercise, a work area for experiments, areas for cooking, eating, and leisure activities, and toilet and washing facilities. Between the main module and the airlock module was the instrument bay, containing the guidance equipment used for the launch vehicle during orbital insertion and for the orbiting space station during preparations for docking. The airlock module had a cylindrical shape and was located between the instrument bay and the docking adapter. It contained the airlock equipment and several units of the life-support systems electric power-supply system, and the communications system and was provided with a hatch for access to the outside. The docking adapter had the shape of a cylinder that ends in a truncated cone, on which the main docking assembly was mounted. It had a docking collar designed to fit the Apollo spacecraft. A backup docking assembly was mounted on the side. A remote-control console was installed inside the docking adapter; it controlled a set of astronomical instruments weighing 9.7 tons, as well as instruments for exploration of the earth’s natural resources.


Glushko, V. P. “Dolgovremennye orbital’nye stantsii (k poletu ‘Skaileba’).” Voprosy raketnoi tekhniki, 1974, no. 4.
See also references under SPACE STATION.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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