Posts Tagged ‘Skylab’

Skylab N2 Bottle Question

August 13, 2009

I’ve recently been to visit both the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC and KSC in Florida, no doubt giving grist for this mill for months.  Here’s the first, although it’s only a little one.

Throughout Apollo research was done to make use of what was learned in the program and put some of the hardware to use afterward.  Initially, no doubt, this started with dreams of going beyond landing on the Moon, but eventually, as budgets got smaller the Apollo Applications Program was left with Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Skylab was beautiful.  It was a kitted out SIVB stage of a Saturn V which was converted to lab and living space, and was huge.  Launched in May 1973 it was crewed three times, the last of which left in February 1974.  The plan was to use the upcoming Space Shuttle to boost it’s orbit, but a combination of denser than usual outer atmosphere (due to solar activity) and delays to the Shuttle meant that Skylab reentered the atmosphere and largely burnt up in July 1979.

A second Skylab was built, ready to fly, but was never sent into orbit.  It now suffers the indignity of having large holes cut in the sides so that tourists like me can wander through and stands in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington DC.

09 07 27 Smithsonian Skylab II N2 bottle detail

So here’s the question.  A number of bottles of nitrogen were attached to the base of the SIVB for use in Skylab.  The N2 is fed to systems in the piping shown.  But why is the piping this elaborate spiral?  It is certainly elegant, but in the mass-conscious business of rocketry surely a shorter, lighter pipe would have been desirable.  Perhaps the spiral coped better with vibration at launch?  Possibly the internal diameter of the pipe changes at a particular rate?  Maybe there are thermal advantages?  I don’t know.  But I’m geeky enough to want to know.  Anyone?