The launch of any new spacecraft cannot be regarded as ‘routine’; nor, indeed, can its inaugural checkout in orbit. The Skylab orbital workshop was an entirely new concept for the United States and a totally different spacecraft, larger, more spacious and in many ways far more complex, than any that had gone before. Shortly after launch, telemetry data indicated a premature deployment of the protective micrometeoroid shield and the No. 2 workshop solar array. The very future of the space station was hanging by a thread.