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NASA Space

NASA Successfully Tests Orion's New Crew Escape System 64

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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  • Re:Launch video (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:29AM (#28647311)

    mplayer 'http://anon.nasa-global.edgesuite.net/qt.nasa-global/ccvideos/larc/mlas-launch.mov'


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Quite complex (Score:3, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 10, 2009 @10:17AM (#28649365) Homepage

    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 configuration.

  • by Phairdon ( 1158023 ) on Friday July 10, 2009 @02:14PM (#28652715)

    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 when the dynamic pressure is just right and those 'chutes will bring the capsule in for a landing.

    They don't have all those 'chutes just for the fun of it. The budget is just too tight to do crap like that.

    First stage recovery has more than 1 set of 'chutes as well.

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