April 5, 2017 – The final test of the Emergency Egress System (EES) was conducted recently, signifying the completion of another United Launch Alliance (ULA) milestone supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The EES was developed in support of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule and is a means of rapid egress for astronauts in case of an anomaly.
“ULA is absolutely focused on the safety of the crews we will be supporting, and, although we hope to never use it, we are excited to announce the Emergency Egress System is fully operational,” said Gary Wentz, vice president of Human & Commercial Services. “Through our partnership with Terra-Nova, a company that designs and builds zip lines for recreational use, a modified, off-the-shelf product has been designed and constructed to meet our needs and reduce costs, while maintaining reliability and safety.”
The egress cables are situated on level 12 of the Crew Access Tower (CAT), 172 feet above the Space Launch Complex 41 pad deck at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and will allow the crew to evacuate the CAT quickly to a landing zone more than 1,340 feet from the launch vehicle. The EES can accommodate up to 20 personnel, including ground crew and flight crew.
Terra-Nova, LLC (makers of the ZipRider® Hybrid) offered a commercially developed EES based on their “off-the-shelf,” patented designs. The ZipRider was easily adaptable to ULA’s specific needs, while offering an unmatched safety record, and providing the best overall value.
In just 30 seconds, the rider reaches top speeds of 40 mph. The riders control their speed by releasing pressure on the handles, with the ability to glide to a gentle stop at the landing zone. There are 30 feet of springs on each cable located in the landing area to gradually slow a rider down if they forget to brake. Terra-Nova will install a training system located north of the CAT for riders to practice on before final training on the operational EES.
The Boeing Company is developing Starliner and selected ULA’s Atlas V rocket for human-rated spaceflight to the International Space Station. ULA’s Atlas V has launched more than 70 times with a 100 percent mission success rate.
“Crew safety is paramount, and the ULA Emergency Egress System hits the mark for an effective yet simple system that is adapted from other commercial applications,” said Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems and a former NASA astronaut. “We look forward to spaceflight operations next year knowing that every measure to protect the flight and ground crew has been employed.”