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Crew Escape System

The in-flight crew escape system is provided for use only when the orbiter is in controlled gliding flight and unable to reach a runway. This would normally lead to ditching. The crew escape system provides the flight crew with an alternative to water ditching or to landing on terrain other than a landing site. The probability of the flight crew surviving a ditching is very small.

The hardware changes required to the orbiters would enable the flight crew to equalize the pressurized crew compartment with the outside pressure via a depressurization valve opened by pyrotechnics in the crew compartment aft bulkhead that would be manually activated by a flight crew member in the middeck of the crew compartment; pyrotechnically jettison the crew ingress/egress side hatch in the middeck of the crew compartment; and bail out from the middeck of the orbiter through the ingress/egress side hatch opening after manually deploying the escape pole through, outside and down from the side hatch opening. One by one, each crew member attaches a lanyard hook assembly, which surrounds the deployed escape pole, to his parachute harness and egresses through the side hatch opening. Attached to the escape pole, the crew member slides down the pole and off the end. The escape pole provides a trajectory that takes the crew members below the orbiter's left wing.

Changes were also made in the software of the orbiter's general-purpose computers. The software changes were required for the primary avionics software system and the backup flight system for transatlantic-landing and glide-return-to-launch-site aborts. The changes provide the orbiter with an automatic-mode input by the flight crew through keyboards on the commander's and/or pilot's panel C3, which provides the orbiter with an automatic stable flight for crew bailout.

Note that the side hatch jettison feature could be used in a landing emergency.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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