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NASA Space

NASA Successfully Tests Orion's New Crew Escape System 64

Posted by timothy
from the this-time-let's-go-sideways dept.
Boccaccio writes "NASA on Wednesday successfully tested its MLAS alternative launch escape system designed for the new Orion Crew module. MLAS, or Max Launch Abort System, is named after the inventor of the crew escape system on the Mercury program, Maxime (Max) Faget and consists of four rocket motors built into a fairing that encloses an Orion module during Launch. MLAS is designed to pull the crew away from the main rocket stack during the critical first 2.5 minutes of flight in the event of a catastrophic failure. The advantage of the MLAS system over the more traditional LAS (Launch Abort System) is that it reduces the total height of the rocket, lowering the center of gravity and adding stability, and potentially allowing higher fuel load. You can watch a video of the launch at the NASA website, and there are also a bunch of pictures."
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NASA Successfully Tests Orion's New Crew Escape System

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  • Satire? (Score:2, Funny)

    by siloko (1133863)
    You don't want to trust Onion's news Crew Escape System, it's probably a hatch to infinity. Don't they know it's a satirical magazine and not a space exploration tech company?
  • Quite complex (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:31AM (#28647319)
    I just watched the video - and while it definitely is a cool concept, what immediately came
    to mind is the increased complexity of the system. I counted five separations (the launch itself
    would be a separation in reality) of some piece or another and multiple chute deployments before the
    crew capsule was safely floating down on its main parachutes.

    I'm sure there's redundancy in there so a single failure wouldn't be fatal (although not dropping the
    casing preventing main chute deployment would be bad), but it is quite a step up from the regular
    "separate, fire one solid booster, wait a bit, deploy chutes" apporach.
    • i concur, the first thing i thought watching the launch video was "damn, thats a lot of parachutes to potentially get fouled" it seems like a far to complex system for something that, if its needed, needs to perform flawlessly. (that said, one hopes to never need the damn thing)
      • by BizzyM (996195)
        NASA's engineers new motto: When in doubt, add another parachute.... or another stage... preferably both.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shaiku (1045292)
        I initially thought the same thing, but perhaps they need variable descent rates and perhaps the first set or two of chutes is more likely to get tangled, ripped, or burned. We also don't know if the failure of one system prevents all the subsequent systems from operating or not. It may be more reliable than it first appears.
      • Re:Quite complex (Score:4, Informative)

        by sunking2 (521698) on Friday July 10, 2009 @10:02AM (#28649123)
        after 2 minutes of bastoff this sucker would normally be pretty damn high. The first stages are pretty much just drag chutes to ensure correct orientation. The next few stages are used to slow it down to a safe speed and/or altitude to deploy the final much larger chutes that might not be able to withstand deployment at a high speed/altitude. Another reason may be that they want to get these guys down as quickly as possible. Thus the drag shoots for control, and a few stages of chutes to slow down/land without putting their heads through their stomachs.
    • Experience counts (Score:2, Interesting)

      by John Guilt (464909)
      Though any of the steps can go wrong, the likelihood of each going wrong also matters. I don't know the record of failed separations and parachute deployments well enough to really say, but both technologies pre-date manned space flight, and have been continuously necessary, so they might be down pat. If there's a very low rate for either or both, it might be safer than a system with fewer stages but more inherent danger for the crew. Depending on the odds, I might prefer five low-risk threats to three m
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it may be a Russian design.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matryoshka_doll

    • I just watched the video - and while it definitely is a cool concept, what immediately came
      to mind is the increased complexity of the system

      I guess the question is, what does the complexity buy them? Complexity for complexities sake is foolish, for sure, but if they get something useful out of the complexity,then it might be worth it. I wonder what the gain is they perceive to be getting, and how much its worth relative to the complexity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I just watched the video - and while it definitely is a cool concept, what immediately came to mind is the increased complexity of the system. I counted five separations (the launch itself would be a separation in reality) of some piece or another and multiple chute deployments before the crew capsule was safely floating down on its main parachutes.

      What the video and accompanying article doesn't make clear is that most of those separation events were part of the test vehicle, not part of the proposed flight

    • That way you always have to take it back to the dealer for maintenance.

    • This system is only as complex as necessary. If it could be simplified, it would. Do you have any idea of how recovery of spacecraft components works, such as recovery of the solid rocket motors? The first parachutes, the small ones, help to slow down the capsule. These parachutes can withstand a certain amount of load. Do you know what dynamic pressure is and how it drives the aero forces in atmo? The next batch of parachutes can withstand another set of forces, and finally the huge babies are released whe

  • by Hozza (1073224) on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:36AM (#28647339)

    The summary doesn't really make this clear, but the baseline Orion design uses a standard LAS system.

    The MLAS is only being developed as a possible alternate, if the LAS solution proves unworkable.

    • This NASA engineering. A backup of a backup!

      However when looking at the video there is the posibilty they get other elements of the escape capsule on their head after a succesful landing.

      Also i am a bit subrised they do not escape sideways. In the final system they have a rocket under their feet that is pushing up. escaping in that direction might not be the safest direction if they already have altitude.

      • Being that it's straight up, and for only the first two and a half minutes, it's a fairly safe route to take. When there is a massive failure of the launch vehicle, it's doubtful that much of the debris will continue on it's original trajectory once failure (ie. explosion/incorrect separation) - Maybe the stress of continuing to be launched upward is considerably less than say, having an explosion, and going from thousands of miles an hour straight up, to instant jet to one side.. I'd rather eat scrambled e
      • by teridon (139550) on Friday July 10, 2009 @06:26AM (#28647525) Homepage

        However when looking at the video there is the posibilty they get other elements of the escape capsule on their head after a succesful landing.

        I know this is /., but try RTFA:

        Because the MLAS flight test vehicle was not optimized for weight and parachute performance, there may be recontact between the elements of the test vehicle after the parachutes are fully deployed and after all the required data is collected. If recontact does occur it will not affect the MLAS test objectives, nor will it apply to Orion -- as the MLAS design and hardware are not representative of the current Orion design.

    • by Boccaccio (762644)
      Fair point. I should have been clearer about that. Thanks for clearing it up.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by teridon (139550)

      Why should it be in the summary? It's in the first paragraph of the article.

      Oh, wait, this is /.

  • of the efforts and genius that is going into these.. (ok, moment over, bash away..)
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:52AM (#28647393) Homepage Journal
    This is from Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins. The story as Collins tells it is that as the crew entered the capsule for the launch he noticed that Armstrong had a loose strap on the thigh of his pressure suit which was about to snare a T shaped hand controller. The launch escape system is triggered by twisting the controller so there was a risk of accidently triggering it. In the book he suggests the last word spoken in the CM before the LES fired would be "oops".
  • by yerktoader (413167) on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:53AM (#28647399) Homepage
    They shoulda ran with it. Awesome names and acronyms have come out of stranger places. For example, my Dad knows one of the engineers that built the San Diego Wild Animal park. They were trying to decide a name for the park's monorail, now known as Wgasa. Apparently, after they had been at it for days one of the engineers coworkers said "Who gives a shit anyway?" :D The story has no official evidence to back it up, but Snopes still believes it to be true.

    So I say honor that Faget and give this device a proper name.

    Futile attempts go exit there?
    Finally a great ejection technology?
    Faget's automatic gravity enhancing technique?
    Fuckers are gonna egress tonight!

    Discuss.
    • The Australian Federal Police were originally going to be called the Federal Law Enforcement Agency.
    • by BabyDave (575083)

      I used to wonder it the Windows 98 Critical Update Notification Utility was originally going to have been a Tool.

      Also, Sun supply the Solaris Crash Analysis Tool, and trust me - if you're googling for the documentation, make sure you turn Safe Search on ...

      • by tepples (727027)

        Also, Sun supply the Solaris Crash Analysis Tool, and trust me - if you're googling for the documentation, make sure you turn Safe Search on ...

        Why? I don't see any poop porn when I type solaris scat [google.com] into Google.

    • An enhancement is, to alwads add vowels of the original words in between consonants that are hard to spell,
      Wgasa, for example, would be more easy spelled, if it would have been called Wogasa or Whogasa.

  • Orion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tcdk (173945) on Friday July 10, 2009 @06:12AM (#28647483) Homepage Journal
    Please, do not call it Orion unless it has small nukes coming out it's ass. Confuses this old timer, it does, yes?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]
    • Yeah because if we get invaded by baby elephants from Alpha Centauri somebody is bound to say hey lets build an Orion. And then they will probably build the wrong one.

      God was knocking, and he wanted in bad....
    • I was to a Mexican restaurant yesterday. So by your definition I can call myself "Orion" now?

      Yay!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      No, it only confuses pedantic old timers who are unable to keep straight the difference between a project long dead and an active project. The rest of us old timers have no problems at all.

  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Friday July 10, 2009 @06:17AM (#28647503)
    Jettison + primary escape stage + jettison stage + deploy nose cone parachutes + jettison nosecone + deploy primary parachute primers + deploy primary chutes
    Failure of any of those steps results in loss of crew.
    • I have searched for and failed to find and online reference but I believe there is a way to escape from a Shuttle fire on the pad which involves:
      1. Climb out of acceleration seats
      2. Open side hatch of shuttle
      3. Walk (or run) through white room
      4. Enter a cage suspended by a pulley from a cable. Its a zip line or flying fox arrangement.
      5. Release cage from launch tower
      6. Wait for cage to reach the ground
      7. Climb out of cage
      8. Walk (or run) to helicopter
      9. Start helicopter
      10. Fly away
      • by LakeSolon (699033) *

        You can see one stage of the STS Emergency Egress system demonstrated in this video at about 1:30.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZFwwGx8dLU [youtube.com]

      • by khallow (566160)
        I gather that's correct to stage 7. According to my dim understanding, past that you:

        8. Hop in an armored van.
        9. Peel out like you're Mad Max with a horde of post-apocalyptic, biker cannibals on your tail.
        10. Huddle down in a nearby bunker about a mile or so away which can take anything short of a direct hit by an errant SRB.
  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:40AM (#28647813) Journal

    Hold your fire. There are no life forms. It must have been short-circuited.

  • This system appears to be in need of simplification.
  • I agree with others here that the MLAS appears to be overly
    complex. Too many things need to happen. I prefer the "KISS"
    philosophy.

    As a backup system this is good.

    I liked the earlier Apollo escape system. Fire rockets, drop the
    rockets, deploy parachute. They did the same type tests viewable
    in "The Mighty Saturns" (see web link below). However This
    system might not be practical with the larger and heavier module
    being used today.

    "The Mighty Saturns" Spacecraft Films
    http://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Saturns-Saturn-E [amazon.com]

  • Space 1999 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Migraineman (632203) on Friday July 10, 2009 @10:32AM (#28649575)
    Man, I swear I'm looking at the cockpit module from an Eagle. [wikipedia.org] BTW, what's Catherine Schell up to these days?
  • Way too complicated, if everything is expected to work perfectly in an emergency, where things like 'unknown error' are bound to occur.
  • Although I agree with many of the posts about the process being a tad complicated, if you watch the video, that looks like one hell of a ride.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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