The Rollercoaster Emergency Escape System (EES) will now be a fixed, permanent structure at launch pad 39B, after undergoing a redesign to reduce the G-Forces on personnel escaping the pad.
A brainstorming meeting between NASA, the contractor RS and H, and Disney concluded with a new design to the coaster, approved ahead of the start of construction next year.
Huge amounts of VSE related insider news and presentations – THE most comprehensive place to follow Ares/Orion development – are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.
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The previous concept, exclusively revealed by NASASpaceFlight.com over a year ago, has only just recently started to gain media attention from some of the other space news sites after NASA.gov released an image and a short write up last week. However, that design, which was produced on September, 2006, has now been scrapped.
The coaster will now be a much heavier framework of steel, which will remain at the pad, with only a small top section becoming part of the Ares I ML (Mobile Launcher) – with the two sections being spliced together at the pad when the vehicle rolls out to 39B.
The Ares I launch complex was to be a ‘clean pad’ design, as was last seen with the Saturn V. Now the horizon looking out at KSC’s 39B will see the removal of the Shuttle’s pad infrastructure, replaced by three giant Lightning Protection Towers, and the surreal sight of a coaster rail track and supporting structure rising out of the ground.
The change to the design came about primarily due to the previous concept having a 5G pullout for those riding on the cars away from the pad. The new design will see the occupants of the cars only having to endure 2Gs. It is understood that NASA’s Astronaut Office objected to the 5G option.
The EES won’t be exclusive to Orion astronauts, More so, the coaster will be for the evacuation of pad workers, in the event of a fire, or a hypergolic leak on the vehicle.
The three day meeting considered the original concept, a proposed new designs, leading to the eventual winner, known as ‘Path A.’
‘Path C: Original Concept – Vertical Drop. This option follows NASA’s conceptual figure provided to the design team with the Statement of Work. A significant portion of the structural framing for the EES track is attached to the ML. This option results in significant G-forces on the passengers,’ noted associated information with the redesign.
‘Path B: Spiral Down Drop. The design team developed this path as a moderate G-force alternate to Path C. A large portion of the framing remains attached to the ML, but the spiral path reduces the G-forces on the passengers.’
‘Path A: Self-Supported. Another approach for the EES path was to limit the amount of track and structural framing attached to the ML. The result is Path A. This path has the lowest G-forces of the three and the fastest time to clear the ML area. It also requires more framing at LC 39B than the other two paths.’
The result of Path A also has side benefits, with the concerns of clearances within the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) – and the VAB door – being mitigated by a ML with far less structure attached to it, and less weight for the ML to carry to the pad.
Further work is required on the system, which includes the bunker end of the rail track where the cars will race into for protection against whatever serious problem with Ares I caused the evacuation. Work will also be carried out on the cars, two – and more likely three – of which will be at the pad when workers are processing the vehicle. Each vehicle will have capacity for six to nine people.
‘Several possible seating styles, including ‘no seat’ options were discussed. The use of a mild track profile allows the use of a ‘lean-on’ location around the perimeter of the vehicle for passengers. The use of a mild track profile allows the use of the floor area with minimal to no restraint for incapacitated passengers.
‘Lean-on locations provide much greater flexibility and speed in loading than individual seats. This seating configuration is the most advantageous from a crew and fire/rescue perspective and was down selected by the group as the clear winner.
‘EES Vehicle Body Type: The merits of fully enclosed, semi-enclosed, and open body types were discussed. It was quickly determined by the group that a fully or semi enclosed body style is needed. If the body is fully enclosed, a ventilation feature is required.’
The meeting went into length about the technicalities of the system, using current roller coaster technology, such as the launch method for the cars – which will be a compressed spring with gravity assisted redundancy, along with the chains and cables that will secure the cars in place, on an angle, at the top of the track/pad.
Launching the cars ‘over the top’ will be a manual operation, via a lever located at the front of the car. While it won’t be located in an area where it could accidentally send the cars down the track, it will be easily operated by one person. Lucky United Space Alliance pad engineers will get to train on evacuating the pad on a regular basis.
It was also determined at the meeting that the best solution on restraining the passengers of the cars was to provide an arm hold on each side of the ‘lean-on’ area. This arm hold would be a ‘D’ shaped bar that suited personnel could easily slip their arms through and grip onto. It was also determined that no restraint system is required for incapacitated personnel riding on the floor.
As seen in a CGI animated video (available on L2) – which showed the car leaving the pad and riding to the end of the track from four vantage points – the cars drop slowly over the edge at the top of the pad, before gaining acceleration in a near-straight drop – though more angled than the original concept – levelling out over a bridge-like support structure, before a horizontal trip to a banked curve in the track – before levelling out again for the ride to the bunker and the breaking area.
The trip is estimated to take only 20 seconds if the video accurately portrays the speed of the cars, and – though it is yet to be finalized – the cars will enter a bunker that rises out of the ground, enclosing the arriving cars, thus allowing the track to remain at the same grade at the horizontal. This would also provide weather protection for the braking systems, and would be the home for the cars until a vehicle was due at the pad.
This new concept to the EES now tasks RS&H with a lot more infrastructure to build at KSC, which will start construction after the new Lightning Towers are starting to rise out of the ground. Those 600 ft tall masts require one of the longest processes, with ground breaking starting as early as next month, via contractor Ivey Construction of Merritt Island, Florida.
Selection of L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation: ‘Proposed’ Ares I SRBSF (Mini VAB) and graphic. LSAM (LDAC-1) Video and Images. Several Constellation All Hands Videos and Presentations. Ares I Pad Rollercoaster (Old and New presentation and slides – the very cool ‘CGI ride on the Ares pad coaster’ video AVAILABLE NOW. Ares I VAB ‘In-Line’ Stacking presentation slides. Live updates on status of changes to Ares I first stage aft.
Presentation of Ares/Orion impacts relating to Shuttle manifest acceleration. Ares I Interstage diagrams. Ares V Super Crawler. Ares I Launch Pad images (ML etc.) Hi Res images of Ares I-X Upper Stage. Orion 606-7 Data Updates. Updates Constellation launch schedule through to Orion 15. Orion Seat test photos. New ML Graphic and info. New Ares V graphic and baseline data. Large collection of hi res Orion paracute drop tests. SIX Part Series of Ares I Upper Stage Graphical Overviews. DAC-1C DDD Vast Slides on Vehicle Design. ATK First Stage Presentation. 39B Lightning Towers Slides. DAC-1C Departure points to DAC-2 Upper Stage Graphcs (Many Changes).
Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages). ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad. New Super hi-res images of Ares I. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric – Feb 1. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.
Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation. Major changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. Saturn Twang Test Video for use with Ares I-1R. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS.
Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares – Jan 3. Ares I-1R Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).
Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.
90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presentation.
CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.