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Manned Orbiting Laboratory


MOL Patch

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory was born the same day the DynaSoar project was cancelled, 10 December 1963.

Like DynaSoar, the MOL was a US Air Force project. Code named Dorian and designated as KH-10, the MOL was intended to be a military space station and used for reconnaissance. The hardware used was to be a modified Gemini, the Gemini B, and the Titan IIIC. Douglas Aircraft Company was selected as the contractor.

MOL and Gemini B
Concept drawing showing Gemini B separating from the MOL (USAF)

The two man crew could spend up to 40 days in a sun synchronous or polar orbit. Launches could be from either Cape Canaveral, FL, or from Vandenberg AFB, CA.

The Gemini B capsule had a door installed in the heat shield to provide access to the laboratory.

MOL cutaway
Cutaway view of the MOL (USAF)
(click to enlarge)

The only MOL flight was a 33 minute suborbital mock-up flight reusing the Gemini 2 capsule to test the integrity of the hatch installed in the heat shield. The test occurred on 3 November 1966 from Cape Canaveral and was successful.

Titan and Gemini
Only flight of the Titan IIIC and Gemini B mock up (USAF)

One Gemini-B was completed but never flown. It is on display at National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.

After a series of cost overruns and budget cuts, the MOL program was cancelled in June 1969. Seven of the remaining 14 astronauts in the MOL program (there had been 17) transferred to NASA after the cancellation.

Proposed MOL Flight Schedule
MOL 1 - Unmanned test - 1 December 1970
MOL 2 - Unmanned test - 1 June 1971
MOL 3 - Manned 30 day flight - 1 February 1972
MOL 4 - Manned - 1 November 1972
MOL 5 - Manned - 1 August 1973
MOL 6 - Manned (all Navy crew) - 1 May 1974
MOL 7 - Manned - 1 February 1975

MOL suit
MOL training suit (USAF)


Page last modified: 07 April 2024 16:47:38.