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The initial flight anomalies of Skylab 1At approximately 63 seconds into the flight of Skylab 1 on May 14, 1973, an anomaly occurred which resulted in the complete loss of the meteoroid shield around the orbital workshop. This was followed by the loss of one of the two solar array systems on the workshop and a failure of the inter stage adapter to separate from the S-II stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle. The investigation reported herein identified the most probable cause of this flight anomaly to be the breakup and loss of the meteoroid shield due to aerodynamic loads that were not accounted for in its design. The breakup of the meteoroid shield, in turn, broke the tie downs that secured one of the solar array systems to the workshop. Complete loss of this solar array system occurred at 593 seconds when the exhaust plume of the S-II stage retro-rockets impacted the partially deployed solar array system. Falling debris from the meteoroid shield also damaged the S-II inter stage adapter ordnance system in such a manner as to preclude separation. Of several possible failure modes of the meteoroid shield that were identified, the most probable in this particular flight was internal pressurization of its auxiliary tunnel which acted to force the forward end of the meteoroid shield away from the shell of the workshop and into the supersonic air stream. The pressurization of the auxiliary tunnel was due to the existence of several openings in the aft region of the tunnel. Another possible failure mode was the separation of the leading edge of the meteoroid shield from the shell of the workshop (particularly in the region of the folded ordnance panel) of sufficient extent to admit ram air pressures under the shield.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Readings in Systems Engineering
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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