Air Force: NASA’s New Rocket Unsafe for Astronauts

Posted: July 24, 2009 in Air Force, Ares I, NASA, Space Shuttle

The Air Force thinks the crew escape capsule for the shuttle replacement, known as the Ares I, will not allow the crew to escape if a low-altitude disaster were to occur. Given the capsule’s nylon parachutes might well have to fly through a massive debris-field of flaming chunks of solid rocket motor, that seems reasonable.

Historically, the crew escape module is analogous to a very expensive good luck charm–it really is not up to getting the job done and is rather a kind of tool to ease the astronaut’s cognitive dissonance about a near-ground (in this scenario, about 30 to 60 seconds into the flight profile) mishap. What does the shuttle have, you ask? Nothing. Remember? It was engineered to fail only once every 10,000 missions.

NASA says the Air Force’s sample size in coming to this conclusion–one mishap involving a Titan IV in 1998–is too small.

A lesson is when you man-rate anything, the costs go through the roof. Likewise, there is no reasonable way to plan for every contingency.

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