Astronauts to Ride Rails in Emergency

Oct 04, 2007
Astronauts to Ride Rails in Emergency
An artist's concept of the Ares I launch pad shows the new evacuation system on the right. Astronauts and ground crew could leave the capsule and ride a rail car to a bunker for protection. The path would be marked with yellow and black arrows. Credit: NASA

As NASA revamps Launch Complex 39B to host the new Orion spacecraft and Ares I rocket of the Constellation Program, engineers are preparing to install a new kind of departure system to evacuate astronauts.

The agency calls it the Orion Emergency Egress System, but it is fundamentally a group of multi-passenger cars on a set of rails reminiscent of a roller coaster. Its purpose is to move astronauts and ground crew quickly from the vehicle entry on the launch pad to a protective concrete bunker in case of an emergency.

Similar systems have been built into launch pads since the Saturn rockets and for the space shuttle. Both earlier systems were cables running from the spacecraft’s crew ingress level to an area near a bunker. There has never been an emergency on the pad that required the crew use these systems.

For Orion, the rail car would stand some 380 feet above the ground. It will be at the same height as the hatch on the Orion capsule, which is where the astronaut crews enter the spacecraft before launch.

Kelli Maloney, the lead designer for the launch pad escape system, said a trade study showed the railcar best met NASA's requirements. Those requirements call for astronauts to be able to get out of the spacecraft and into the bunker within 4 minutes.

One of the benefits of the rail system, Maloney said, is that the track can take the astronauts directly to the bunker door. That would be a big help if one of the crew members or a ground crew member was incapacitated.

Scott Colloredo, NASA's senior project integrator for Constellation ground systems, said the group called on the world's roller coaster designers for help with the concept.

"It's obviously not a thrill ride, but we're taking advantage of technology that's there," he said.

Source: by Steven Siceloff, NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

Explore further: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

For many US teachers, the classroom is a lonely place

14 hours ago

One of the best ways to find out how teachers can improve their teaching is to ask them. The massive Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) did just that and the answers offer crucial insights for teachers, school ...

Recommended for you

Can sound help us detect 'earthquakes' on Venus?

Apr 23, 2015

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures—about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead—that ...

Titan's atmosphere useful in study of hazy exoplanets

Apr 23, 2015

With more than a thousand confirmed planets outside of our solar system, astronomers are attempting to identify the atmospheres of these distant bodies to determine if they could possibly host life.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.