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The SpaceX and Boeing Emergency Launch Abort Systems are explained



When things go awry, when an astronaut crew takes off into space, their spacecraft always has an integrated demolition system that helps them safely return to Earth. But not all demolition systems work the same way.

In October 2018, the Soyuz Start Demolition System mistakenly returned two crew members bound to the International Space Station to Earth after their missile missile failed. Similarly, the new commercial crew vehicles built by SpaceX and Boeing are designed to safely separate themselves from their missiles and, in an emergency, float back to earth.

Neither of these companies has fully tested the demolition system on their new commercial crew vehicle. Both, however, are in trouble with initial tests of the escape engines, which are to bring the astronauts to safety. On Saturday, April 20, SpaceX's Crew Dragon suffered a major anomaly during a test fire of the SuperDraco Escape engines at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Rauch was widely visible. Similarly, last July Boeing similarly reported an "anomaly" during a test of the company's start-stop engines, although there were no reports of dramatic explosions or clouds of smoke.

It may not be very reassuring to see something to save lives to save lives, especially for the astronauts who want to fly in these spacecraft. But these "anomalies" will ultimately make the spacecraft safer for astronauts by helping engineers find and solve problems before they become life-threatening.

Related: How risky launches of spacecraft work (infographic)

There are two ways to break off a crew launch: the older, proven and tested Pull "method and the newer "push." ​​In the older demolition mechanism, a small set of rocket boosters are installed at the top of the crew capsule, giving the nose of the missile a sharp, oblong shape, and when the mission is aborted, these downthrust engines "pull" the capsule is safe after it has separated from the rocket.

NASA used this type of escape system for the first time with Project Mercury the agency's first space program, as well as with the Apollo program, the Astronaut This is also the escape system of the Russian Soyuz Rocket Capsule Combination by Soyuz which NASA has been following for nearly a year left ten to bring astronauts to and from the space station.

The artist's concept for the DragonX capsule of the SpaceX puts its start-stop system into action.

(Image: © SpaceX)

The idea for a Boeing introduced in 201

0 a new launch-escape system. SpaceX, however, was the first to realize this idea with the company's Crew Dragon spaceship. Instead of mounting an escape tower on the capsule, SpaceX has installed the engines in the outer walls of the capsule. Eight SuperDraco engines are embedded in the fuselage and will "push" the capsule away from the rocket in an emergency.

These SuperDracos were the engines that SpaceX tested when the blast took place on April 20. In 2015 SpaceX completed the first test flight of the Crew Dragon demolition system. The company has not yet given a reason for this accident, but could be related to a change that has been implemented since this first test.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner uses a similar launching system As with the Crew Dragon, but instead of eight SuperDraco engines, four RS-88 engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne are used. The Starliner also had problems with its launch-stop engines during a similar hot-fire test in July 2018 as Boeing reported that engine valves leak propellant gas. At that time there was no dramatic explosion, but the first Starliner test flight was later postponed. The launch is now scheduled for August.

While the two commercial space companies are using the newer design for a launching system, NASA is sticking to the old "pull" method with the agency's new Orion crew capsule. NASA will launch this spacecraft as early as 2024 astronauts on the moon. The agency plans to test Orion's demolition system on June 12th for a second time. The first test was completed successfully in 2010, since then improvements have been made to the system design, using the data that the agency had collected during the first test.

All three vehicles would use parachutes to bring crews safely back to Earth, but SpaceX's CrewX could rely on its engines as an emergency landing gear, typed Elon Musk in March . Although SpaceX was apparently well on its way to defeating Boeing with a first manned flight to the International Space Station, the recent SpaceX crash is likely to make Boeing arrive first. SpaceX has not yet said what caused the explosion on Saturday or how it will affect Crew Dragon's schedule. Crew Dragon Demo-2, the first manned test flight, is technically scheduled for July 25, but that's likely to change.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @ hannekescience . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .


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