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Launch Pad Escape System Design (Human Spaceflight)A launch pad escape system for human spaceflight is one of those things that everyone hopes they will never need but is critical for every manned space program. Since men were first put into space in the early 1960s, the need for such an Emergency Escape System (EES) has become apparent. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has made use of various types of these EESs over the past 50 years. Early programs, like Mercury and Gemini, did not have an official launch pad escape system. Rather, they relied on a Launch Escape System (LES) of a separate solid rocket motor attached to the manned capsule that could pull the astronauts to safety in the event of an emergency. This could only occur after hatch closure at the launch pad or during the first stage of flight. A version of a LES, now called a Launch Abort System (LAS) is still used today for all manned capsule type launch vehicles. However, this system is very limited in that it can only be used after hatch closure and it is for flight crew only. In addition, the forces necessary for the LES/LAS to get the capsule away from a rocket during the first stage of flight are quite high and can cause injury to the crew. These shortcomings led to the development of a ground based EES for the flight crew and ground support personnel as well. This way, a much less dangerous mode of egress is available for any flight or ground personnel up to a few seconds before launch. The early EESs were fairly simple, gravity-powered systems to use when thing's go bad. And things can go bad very quickly and catastrophically when dealing with a flight vehicle fueled with millions of pounds of hazardous propellant. With this in mind, early EES designers saw such a passive/unpowered system as a must for last minute escapes. This and other design requirements had to be derived for an EES, and this section will take a look at the safety design requirements had to be derived for an EES, and this section will take a look at the safety design aspects for a launch pad escape system.
Document ID
20110012275
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Authors
Maloney, Kelli (NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2011
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
Report/Patent Number
KSC-2011-096
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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