United Launch Alliance Completes Crew Emergency Egress System

CST-100 Starliner crew emergency egress system. (Credit: Boeing)

ULA and Terra-Nova Zipline provide NASA and commercial astronauts with safe, new generation egress option 

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., April 2, 2017 (ULA PR) – 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.”

CST-100 emergency egress system (Creidt: Boeing)

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.

CST-100 Starliner crew emergency egress system (Credit: Boeing)

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.”

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field and enable personal device-based GPS navigation.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch.


  • therealdmt

    How fun would it be to give that thing a go (sans threat of exploding rocket, of course)

  • Tannia Ling

    While I realize such a system is a necessity, I’ve often wondered how useful it would be. It seems like the only time such an egress system is useful is when there is imminent danger that the rocket will blow up, yet the sequence of events is progressing slow enough that the astronauts have time to exit the vehicle and jump into egress system. In other words a slow-rate catastrophic failure. Amongst all the things that can go wrong with rockets, how likely is that?

  • windbourne

    I’m with you. I can not see how that will help the astronauts. It MIGHT help any support personal, but all in all, I would expect that if the crew was in the capsule and some alarm went off that signals an escape, then it should be in the capsule, not getting outside.

  • JamesG

    It won’t help. But they needed something to check the box for a “crew/personell tower escape” procedure other than “Hope, pray nothing happens, ’cause you’re screwed if it does”. Dusting off the same idea (and just as unhelpful) as STS worked for them.

  • ReSpaceAge

    The rocket will blow in .01 seconds…..Who wants hop in the swing first?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    As likely as the Dragon capsule surviving the breakup of the Falcon 9 upper stage in the CRS-7 mission. A low probability event. Some chance is better than no chance.

    As windbourne posted above. The current NASA crew ingress sequence does not favor the ground crew surviving with a fueled launch vehicle on the pad undergoing RUD. Regardless of the wire slides, which I an guessing will take about 20 seconds to traverse.

  • Paul_Scutts

    Make a profit and sell tickets, better than Disneyland. 🙂

  • duheagle

    Do that and there’d be gum and candy wrappers all over the tower and pad in no time. Not to mention all the ambulance-chasing lawyers lined up waiting to pounce.

  • Robert Gishubl

    Yes it would be intersting to see an overlay of SpaceX Amos6 RUD with zipline starting as soon as a problem was detected. That side by side with Dragon pad abort test. I suspect the zipline wouldn’t fare well. Better to be in a capsule with armed abort system that has been tested to work in fractions of a second.