Skylab II is a space station concept proposed by the Advanced Concepts Office of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, to be located at the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian point. Proposed by NASA contractor Brand Griffin, Skylab II would be constructed as a "dry workshop" using the upper-stage hydrogen fuel tank from the Space Launch System (SLS), much as the original Skylab was built from the fuel tanks of the Saturn S-IVB upper stage. If constructed, Skylab II would be the first manned outpost located beyond the orbit of the Moon.
Space station design
Skylab II would be parked near the Earth-Moon L2 point, 64,450 km away from the Moon and 448,400 km from the Earth. Given its location far away from the nearest food, water, and air, the first iteration of the space station would be able to support a four-person crew for 60 days on one shipment of supplies, to be eventually improved to 180 days. As Skylab II would be built from an SLS hydrogen fuel tank, the costs of assembly would be a relatively low $2 billion, a tremendous savings over a previously projected cost of $4.175 billion for a similar space station.
The space station would have large modules with diameters of 8.5 meters (28 ft)—much larger than the 4.5-meter (15 ft) diameter of International Space Station modules or the 6.7-meter (22 ft) diameter of the original Skylab. This large diameter would lead to a module volume of about 495 cubic meters (17,500 cu ft), allowing for a large amount of space for both storage and habitation. This large interior volume, in turn, would make Skylab II suitable for its deep-space location, where resupply missions would be rare and astronauts would have to store the food they received from each mission for months at a time. The supplies themselves could be carried in a variety of vehicles, such as the existing Progress and Dragon, or perhaps a new, SLS-derived logistics module, which could resupply the whole station in one mission.
Once at Earth-Moon L2, Skylab II could be a "stepping stone" for further human exploration in the Solar System, for example by being a docking site for a manned lunar lander before the trip to the Moon. The second use would be to add a servicing capability for the astrophysics missions located near Earth-Sun L2, extending the cryogenic mission lifetime of such missions by continually refilling their liquid helium and enabling some astrophysics missions which may otherwise have not been possible or would have been launched in a less-capable state.
For extravehicular activities (EVAs) near the space station, a small, one-person FlexCraft may be used in lieu of a spacesuit to improve dexterity and safety for astronauts, as well as the efficiency of EVAs. FlexCraft would eliminate the requirement of an astronaut to prebreathe the pure oxygen atmosphere in a spacesuit, reducing overhead time for EVAs significantly and enabling longer EVAs to be carried out. Additionally, FlexCraft would improve astronaut speed during EVAs, as moving around space installations would be faster and less physically demanding in automated vehicles.
- NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Advanced Concepts Office
- Space Launch System infographic