A View from Brittany Sauser

NASA's Crew Escape System Tested

The system will be vital to future human spaceflight.

  • May 12, 2010

Last week NASA successfully tested the launch pad abort system designed for the Orion crew spacecraft. The system is meant to allow the crew to escape should a catastrophe occur during the first few seconds of flight. Read Technology Review’s article on how it works. Here is an exert from the article:

The new escape system would separate the crew module from the launch rocket in a fraction of a second with a small, controlled explosion. Almost simultaneously, a solid rocket motor would fire, providing a million pounds of thrust to accelerate the module from 0 to 600 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, pulling the astronauts to a safe distance before the module’s parachutes deploy.

Last week’s test, shown in the video below, took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It was the first fully-integrated test for the system. The data gathered will be important for the design and development of future systems.

NASA originally intended to send the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the escape system into space aboard the Ares rockets by 2015 as part of its Constellation Program. Under President Obama’s new budget proposal, which calls for the cancellation of the Constellation Program, Orion will instead be used as an emergency crew spacecraft on the International Space Station.

I recently spoke with Antonio Elias, executive vice president and general manager of Advanced Programs at Orbital Sciences Corporation, a VA-based commercial space company providing design and development support of the system. He said that a launch abort system is vital unless we completely abandon human spaceflight, and it is very likely that Orbital will continue to build NASA’s future escape systems.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.