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: Earth survived near-miss from 2012 solar storm: NASA

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Finding NEEMO

Jul 17, 2014

NEEMO – NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations – trains astronauts for life in space. Living and working in an underwater base is similar to being on a space station. This year, NASA has two NEEMO ...

Astronaut health check with single drop of blood

Jun 27, 2014

(Phys.org) —ESA is building a prototype tester for crews on the International Space Station to provide diagnoses within a few minutes from a pinprick of blood. The ultimate device will offer rapid health ...

3D printer to fly to space in august, sooner than planned

Jun 13, 2014

A 3-D printer intended for the International Space Station has passed its NASA certifications with flying colors—earning the device a trip to space sooner than expected. The next Dragon spacecraft, scheduled ...

Recommended for you

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

3 hours ago

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

3 hours ago

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

Biomarkers of the deep

4 hours ago

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain is a unique geological site that has fascinated astrobiologists for decades. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in Spain's Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit ...

User comments : 0