In cases where there is an emergency on the pad and the crew needs to get out of there in a hurry. Companies have designed Emergency Egress Systems (EES) to do just that job. SpaceX and ULA each have them, and in the past, NASA has as well. It looks like Artemis, NASA’s mission to the moon, is in the early stages of having her’s built.
This new system will consist of 4 baskets, each with its own wire down to a landing zone. The landing zone will be located near a concrete bunker and will be the staging point of an armored vehicle. Crews can either use the concrete bunker and wait for further assistance, or they can drive an armored vehicle away from the pad.
The EES will not be required until Artemis II, the first crewed SLS flight. This means it is unlikely that work will begin on this system until Artemis I has launched. The basket/wire system is a standard means of crew egress from a launchpad, used by SpaceX at LC-39A and by ULA at SLC-41, but other ideas have been tossed around. Some ideas got closer to reality than you might think.
Basket Emergency Egress System (NASA/SpaceX)
The EES used by SpaceX is practically the same as what was used for the Space Shuttle and what will be used for SLS. It consists of a basket that is located on the crew level of an access tower. These baskets ride on a wire down to a landing zone. From there, the crew can either go into a bunker or ride an armored vehicle away from the pad.
A new landing zone for the SLS EES will be built on the west side of LC-39B. This will require the relocation of a small lightning protection tower and some camera systems. As part of the Artemis II mission, tests of the EES will be conducted with the crew. These tests are crucial in demonstrating the ability of crews to evacuate the pad in the event of a disaster.
ULA has a similar system but they use individual seats rather than a basket system that can hold multiple people.
However, there was once a plan for a different type of EES before SLS. When it was first reported back in 2006 to be a part of the Constellation program, no one believed it was real.
Ares Roller-Coaster Emergency Egress System
This system was unlike any other. NASA conducted a trade study to identify the best method for crew egress, and this was the result. NASA worked with Ride Centerline and RS&H to design this system. By the time the design was done, however, the Constellation Program had been canceled in favor of the SLS Program.
The State of Artemis I
With the recent arrival of the Artemis I core stage to Kennedy Space Center, all the pieces are in play for a launch in late 2021 – early 2022. The Solid Rocket Boosters are completed and are awaiting integration with the core stage once it has been refurbished after the Green Run testing. The Orion Capsule, which has been integrated with the ICPS upper stage built by ULA and has its launch escape system, will head for the VAB to be stacked. We are closer to launch than ever before.
Featured photo: SpaceX