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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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  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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? []
  • Experience counts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by John Guilt ( 464909 ) on Friday July 10, 2009 @08:07AM (#28647961)
    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 moderate-risk threats.

    And, asking from near-complete ignorance: would the failure of the fairing to separate be fatal to the crew? It will be hot, but it seems to me that if it weren't well thermally-isolated from the capsule, they'd be in trouble to begin-with...but maybe it's only insulated well enough to keep them safer from it until expected separation, and much longer than that would be pushing it....
  • 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. [] BTW, what's Catherine Schell up to these days?

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