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NASA Successfully Tests Orion's New Crew Escape System

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the this-time-let's-go-sideways dept.

NASA 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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So hard! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647141)

Trying so hard to come up with a joke incorporating the name Faget with an escape system without being too crude...

How about, at least we know they would be exiting through the same hatch as they would be entering?

Re:So hard! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647467)

(Max) Faget

Not to be confused with this one [mtv.co.uk] .

Look: (0, Troll)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648827)

Max Faggot writes itself!

Root is like crack (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647143)

Root is like crack. Don't smoke it. I did once and got hooked. I ran Mac OS Updates as root. ****, I even had sex with my girlfriend as root. Man, that caused some permissions problems. When I started the road to recovery (logging in as Zacks) my girlfriend was all like: "**** no! You can't get any cause you don't own me an I don't go groups. You don't have the power to read, write OR execute so get out of my FACE" So I was all HELL NO bitch. And she wuz like you do not have root (superuser) privlages so get out of my TruBlueEnvironment! So then I went chown and chmodded her ass to me. Dat be-otch be up in my hizzouse. What what. Holla!

Launch video (1)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647165)

Re:Launch video (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647311)

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

:)

Re:Launch video (1)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647653)

Thanks. That flip at the apex looked enough to do me in!

Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647195)

Wow, that was beautiful!

Re:Wow! (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28650749)

So many parachutes! It was like the Rube Goldberg machine of escape systems. It was a glorious thing to watch unfold.

Re:Wow! (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28656873)

Excellent observation! Its classical wacky EXACTLY like a Rube Goldberg invention.

Thanks for the comparison,
Jim

Satire? (1, Funny)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647223)

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?

Re:Satire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647305)

What does the Onion have to do with this story?

Re:Satire? (1)

lanceran (1575541) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647315)

Apparantely to some people, Orion looks like Onion.

Re:Satire? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647405)

Shame they didn't call it the Faget Launch Abort System. I think that it has a nicer ring to it.

Max Faget (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647241)

LOL can't spell "phaggot"

Quite complex (5, Interesting)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Quite complex (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647721)

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)

Re:Quite complex (1)

BizzyM (996195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648059)

NASA's engineers new motto: When in doubt, add another parachute.... or another stage... preferably both.

Re:Quite complex (3, Insightful)

Shaiku (1045292) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648605)

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 (3, Informative)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 5 years ago | (#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....

Re:Quite complex (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647973)

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

40 years ago called. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648311)

Soviets did it, and used it successfully since 1960s.

Re:Quite complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648887)

Yea, I mean, this shouldn't be rocket science!

The question would be... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649275)

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:Quite complex (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649365)

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.

Re:Quite complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649649)

I also wonder about the survivability of an event even if you are on top of the fuel. Challenger's explosion of liquid hydrogen didn't seem nearly as fierce as the explosions I've seen of rockets with solid fuel. Even with Challenger sitting next to the stack, the cockpit remained mostly intact IIRC. Has anyone tested how the a capsule sitting on top of a solid rocket explosion would fair?

Re:Quite complex (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28650925)

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

Comples, Yes. Overly-Complex, No. (2, Informative)

Phairdon (1158023) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Complex, Yes. Overly-Complex, No. (1)

Phairdon (1158023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28652731)

Doh, Typo in my main response title. It should say "Complex, Yes. Overly-Complex, No." Sorry.

Re:Quite complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28654279)

A simpler solution: use rovers to allow the crew to escape in the design phase.

Its an alternate solution. (4, Informative)

Hozza (1073224) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

backup of a backup. (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647375)

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.

Re:backup of a backup. (1)

shacky003 (1595307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647397)

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 eggs, not become them ;) (Just my opinion, ymmv)

Re:backup of a backup. (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647457)

as we saw with the Challenger explosion plume the fire ball only reaches so high.. and the LES is designed to travail agilest 1 mach number higher then the rockit was traveling and accelerate there in less then 2 seconds

Re:backup of a backup. (4, Informative)

teridon (139550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647525)

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:Its an alternate solution. (1)

Boccaccio (762644) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647377)

Fair point. I should have been clearer about that. Thanks for clearing it up.

Re:Its an alternate solution. (0, Offtopic)

teridon (139550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647521)

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

Oh, wait, this is /.

So, it's the... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28647345)

Faget escape system?

We should be proud... (1)

shacky003 (1595307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647347)

of the efforts and genius that is going into these.. (ok, moment over, bash away..)

Apollo 11 nearly tested their LES (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647393)

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".

Oh the possibilities (4, Funny)

yerktoader (413167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647399)

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.

Re:Oh the possibilities (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647417)

The Australian Federal Police were originally going to be called the Federal Law Enforcement Agency.

Re:Oh the possibilities (1)

shacky003 (1595307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647491)

That would have been great in the Get Smart TV series...

Re:Oh the possibilities (1)

BabyDave (575083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647665)

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 ...

Re:Oh the possibilities (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648023)

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.

Re:Oh the possibilities (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647861)

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? (4, Interesting)

tcdk (173945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647483)

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]

Re:Orion? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647803)

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....

Re:Orion? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647913)

I was to a Mexican restaurant yesterday. So by your definition I can call myself "Orion" now?

Yay!

Re:Orion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649273)

I want to know if they are trying to bury the memory of Orion forever, or desensitize the public so they can use nukes later?

Re:Orion? (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649395)

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.

Overly complex + more chances to fail. (5, Insightful)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Overly complex + more chances to fail. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647741)

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

Re:Overly complex + more chances to fail. (1)

LakeSolon (699033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647779)

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]

Re:Overly complex + more chances to fail. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647811)

Thanks.

Re:Overly complex + more chances to fail. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28657233)

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.

There goes another one... (4, Funny)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647813)

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

Re:There goes another one... (4, Funny)

drachenfyre (550754) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648451)

What are we, paying by the laser beam? You don't do the budgets around here....

Simplify (1)

Robert Larson (1451741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648141)

This system appears to be in need of simplification.

KISS principle violated? What am I missing? (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648507)

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-Extended-Collectors/dp/B0001NBM5I [amazon.com]

Space 1999 (2, Interesting)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28651021)

Way too complicated, if everything is expected to work perfectly in an emergency, where things like 'unknown error' are bound to occur.

Who needs an amusment park? (1)

Sleepyhead5 (1246752) | more than 5 years ago | (#28651571)

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.
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