Feeds

NASA tests rocket-disaster escape rocket

Firing oneself out of the frying pan

The Power of One Infographic

NASA has announced a successful test of its "Max Launch Abort System" (MLAS), essentially a rocket ejector seat writ large and applied to an entire space capsule. The system is designed to let astronauts escape and parachute to safety in the event of a launcher stack crackup.

The Max Launch Abort System tested at Wallops Island

That's just the ejector seat. Wait till you see the rocket.

The test, in which a mockup capsule was first fired into the sky by MLAS rockets and then parachuted down into the Atlantic, was carried out yesterday at NASA's Wallops Island test facility in Virginia. In a scenario comparable to what would happen in the event of a catastrophe on the launch pad, the MLAS boosted the capsule a mile into the sky before triggering parachutes for a safe ocean splashdown.

The MLAS uses four solid rocket motors built into a fairing attached to the crew capsule and a variety of parachutes to stabilise the hurtling module after it has soared free of its doomed launch stack. The system is named after NASA engineer Maxime (Max) Faget, a pioneer from the days of the Mercury programme.

Despite the MLAS' pleasingly pyrotechnic tests yesterday, NASA has no plans at present to use it on any actual manned spacecraft. The embattled Ares/Orion ("Constellation") plan for an American return to space in the post-Shuttle era - provided it survives the discussions which have followed the economic downturn and the US election - would use a single-rocket abort/escape system more like the escape towers of old.

NASA say that the development of MLAS - and yesterday's test - were nonetheless well worthwhile, as much of the data gleaned will be used in the Constellation programme in one way or another. Assuming Constellation goes ahead, that is.

There are more pics and a vid of the MLAS test here. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.