In an answer to a recent question we see a plan for many space stations as part of a space infrastructure, with a surface-to-low-Earth-orbit reusable shuttle as another part. This shuttle eventually turned into what became the space shuttle. As far as I understand, the initial design specified a cargo bay 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. Due to involvement of the Air Force this was changed to a design with 15 feet width and 60 feet length.

Looking at the modules of the ISS we see that many modules have a diameter of 4 meter or more (12 feet = ~3.6 meter). Also many modules where launched by the space shuttle.

Assuming the smaller shuttle with a smaller cargo bay would have been built and used, I guess space station modules with a maximal diameter of 12 feet would have been kind of an issue (think of this image but with 1 meter less space).

Would have these planned stations be built in the same way the ISS was built, by sending up -smaller- modules with a shuttle to be linked in space, or by sending smaller parts (walls) with a shuttle? Or were there other means of getting these stations up planned?


3 Answers 3


A mix of manned shuttle missions and unmanned boosters carrying larger modules. They planned to use Saturn Vs to launch pre-assembled stations (like Skylab) and have the shuttles bring up experiment and logistics modules.

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This whole report is available here but the illustrations are poorly reproduced in black-and-white.

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    $\begingroup$ Let's not forget the Wet Workshop - using the spent fuel tanks of the shuttle as structure of habitats/modules, filling them with equipment delivered separately. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:33

Prior to the Shuttle approach, there were really two modes of station building.

Skylab first, which used a Saturn-IVB third stage outfitted before launch, and was basically all done in a single launch. (Dry workshop. Wet workshop idea was launch it full of fuel with a big payload and have the stuff submerged in the fuel/oxidizer).

Salyut/Mir second, used a module approach, but the key technology was a maneuvering system, small enough to attach to a module, that did not detract from the total payload. For Pirs/Poisk at ISS this was a modified Progress. Proton launched modules had their own maneuvering systems.

Had the shuttle payload bay not been big enough, no doubt big modules would have been launched on a Titan or Atlas and maneuvered to dock. Or else Shuttle-C style approaches where a singular large payload would be delivered.


Other way to think: The modules were designed to fit into the shuttle - had it been smaller, the modules itself would probably been designed smaller (so still to fit the shuttle) - perhaps limiting its use, but had the shuttle been larger, I'd bet my money the modules (at least some of them) might even been larger...


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