An aborted Ares-1 launch may KILL dozens persons
January 24, 2008

You remember the Challenger accident in 1986 when seven Shuttle astronauts was killed in the explosion of the ET due to an SRB's flame leak.

It was a big tragedy itself, but it could be WORSE if happened at lower altitude with the SRBs full of propellent and out of control.

This hasn't happened since the Challenger was at 14 km. and T +74.6 sec. when the ET burned in an explosion, that means the SRB (that has a 123 seconds max burning time) was close to be empty of propellent and, anyhow, without enough propellent to "fly" too away from the Shuttle's trajectory.

Also, the Shuttle's SRBs are relatively safer since they are joined to the ET until they are jettisoned at 45 km. of altitude, but... WHAT may happen if the Ares-1 launch ABORTS at LOW altitude after lift-off and its (single and not joined) more powerful SRB-5 will go out of control with the max load of propellent and no way to shut down it???

Just imagine the most
CHILLING scenario of an Ares-1 launch abort:

the Ares-1 has a perfect lift-off and leaves the launch pad

after a dozen seconds a malfunction happens in the rocket-payload stack

the Orion's LAS (launch abort system) goes in action and save the astronauts

the Ares-1 goes out of control with (nearly) its max load of propellent

since the Ares-1 SRB-5 is a solid propellent motor there is no way to shut down it

after few seconds of raw flight the SRB loses the 2nd stage and its attitude controls

then, the giant ICBM-like SRB-5 motor (full of propellent) goes where it wants!!!

But... WHERE and HOW MUCH AWAY an (out of control) SRB-5 can go???

The max altitude range of a Shuttle's SRB is 45 km. while the CLV and Ares-1 SRBs are planned to be jettisoned at 50-55 km. but, ALL these figures, refer to an SRB launched WITH a payload on its side or top and NOT to an aborted launch's SRB that flys ALONE and with NO upperstages' mass nor payload that may BRAKE its flight and speed!!!

Just look at the Florida's map below to know the flight range of an aborted launch SRB.

If we consider ONLY the (minimum) Shuttle/CLV/Ares-1 "braked" flight range (45-55 km.) the SRB-5 could fall like a SCUD on any KSC building (the launch pad, the mission control center, the VAB, etc.) or any other (of several thousands) building or infrastructure (inhabited buildings, highways, schools, ships, airports, oil depots, etc.) in a 45-55 km. range that includes locations like Titusville, Merrit Island and Cocoa Beach.

But an SRB-5 has the dimensions and the propellent of an ICBM, so, its REAL flight range (WITHOUT any "braking" payload or upperstages' mass) could be 100-200 km. or MORE including locations like De Land, Daytona Beach, Sanford, Kissimmee, DisneyWorld/Epcot, Melbourne and Orlando!!! ...or (maybe) it could fly to Georgia and Alabama...

That's, probably, the reason why Wernher Von Braun was AGAINST the solid boosters used for manned launches and why I think that a rocket made with liquid engines (that always can be shut down!) while is SAFE for the astronauts (thanks to the Orion LAS) should be VERY MUCH SAFER for the peoples inside and (200+ km.) around the KSC.

[update] Some answers to questions posted on forums and blogs where I talk of that:

not seen any RSS in action in the Challenger's accident, since, as anyone can see from the accident's images, the SRBs gone free where they wanted to go... probably the RSS was activated but had a malfunction (that's exactly like don't have them)

the liquid engines' safety systems are simpler and safer since they only needs to close the propellents' valves to stop the engines' burn

the TWO safety systems (explosives AND fuel valves off) of a liquid rocket always are better and safer than one

an SRB is so powerful that, at some altitudes, its inertia could be enough to fall dozens km. from the launch pad

the expected increase of rockets launches with SRB (especially with SINGLE boosters) will increase the probability that, an accident like this, will happen (also the Challenger's SRB-leak and Columbia's foam loss was "improbable" and "unexpected" events before they really happened)

all my articles have the purpose to evidence problems to find better and safer solutions

[update] Further data about the Challenger accident:

at T +75 sec. (half second after the ET explosion) the Mission Control spokesman Steve Nesbitt said "Velocity 2,900 feet per second (1,977 mph). Altitude nine nautical miles." then, 3,182 kmh

then, the separated SRBs' speed, not joined to any mass, was probably over 4,000 kmh

the RSS was activated at T +110 seconds (then, 35 seconds after the ET explosion)

flying alone at 4,000 kmh the SRBs can cover up to 39 km. in 35 seconds, or 60+ km. adding the inertia, then (with a bad traiectory, of course) enough to reach Titusville...

just think that an SRB.5 should have much more power than a standard SRB, will fly at 20% higher speed than Shuttle and, while separated from the 2nd stage in a (possible) Ares-1 accident, it could fly free (and alone) at every altitude...

Florida map courtesy

[update] After publishing this article one year ago, I've posted the link on several space forums and blogs... just to receive lots of critics and insults... but the first (failed) test launch of the ATK ALV X-1 (destroyed shortly after launch due to a bad trajectory) from the Wallops Island Flight Facility, has CLEARLY demonstrated HOW MUCH DANGEROUS a solid motor rocket could be if launched ALONE (without the Space Shuttle's stack) if something goes wrong!!!

As reported by several newspapers and websites the ALV X-1 test launch abort and its "controlled explosion", led the falling of many fragments of the missile pretty close to some civilian dwellings near the Wallops launch base, that despite the (19.5 mT gross weight) ATK ALV X-1 rocket is OVER 55 TIMES SMALLER the 1100+ mT Ares-1!!!

So, a failed/aborted Ares-1 launch, can put the 4-6 astronauts atop it, the thousands KSC workers and the Florida inhabitants near the launch base under serious risk also causing the destruction (or the serious damage) of the Ares-1 launch pad (which will be THE ONLY allowed for manned missions in the ESAS plan!) and of other costly and vital infrastructures inside and/or near the KSC.




<< Back

Copyright © Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved