I can not find any reference for this, but it seems to me that Skylab, unlike the International Space Station, had a fixed attitude instead of rotating to have the same side always facing the Earth.

The reasons I suspect that was the case:

  • On all the photographs I can find of the station, the unscrambled solar panel of the station and the panels of the Apollo service module are pointing in the same fixed direction.
  • The provisional sunshade was installed at the same side as the solar panels was pointing.
  • It had a telescope mount for observation of the Sun and the sky, something the ISS does not (the ISS only does Earth observations). That would not have been possible if the station was rotating relative to the sky.

Did Skylab actually have a fixed orientation relative to the Sun? I can not verify if that is true or not.


1 Answer 1


Yes, here it is:

Two precise control systems permitted the astronauts to orient the workshop to collect experimental data and to position Skylab so that its solar arrays faced the Sun.

That means that the solar panels were fixed, and that the whole station was oriented so they faced the Sun.

This kind of rotation is quasi-inertial, as fixed relative to the Sun is not the same as fixed relative to the stars. The difference is however just one rotation a year, meaning that it is easy to switch between the two different modes.

Note also that the Apollo Telescope Mount could rotate independently to track an object.

More on the Skylab space station can be found here.


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