NASA and SpaceX join forces for launch pad emergency escape drill

To ensure the safety of the first manned mission, SpaceX is conducting test preparations under NASA guidance. On April 3, the team held an emergency escape drill at the 39A launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida so that astronauts and ground crews could familiarize themselves with the technical process of rapidly evacuating from the launch tower.

NASA and SpaceX join forces for launch pad emergency escape drill

The exercise loaded the “injured” dummy into a slide basket to safely evacuate the tower (photo: SpaceX)

Because propellants are toxic and highly explosive, all stages of space launch operations must be careful. The condition of astronauts entering the spacecraft early is even more dangerous than that of ground crews.

NASA has not relaxed its guard against manned missions since the Apollo program was launched. At the Saturn V launch site, for example, each tower is equipped with high-speed elevators, chutes, wire slides, and breathless bunkers.

Crewmembers were able to stay away from rockets in the bunker, sheltering from fires and explosions, waiting for rescuers to arrive.

NASA and SpaceX join forces for launch pad emergency escape drill

Ground crews in protective clothing perform an escape procedure (Source: NASA)

For future commercial space launches, NASA still retains escape devices such as wire slides and hanging baskets at launch sites so that astronauts and crews can escape from white rooms up to 265 feet (81 meters) high.

High-speed lifts can reach the ground in 30 seconds and then safely take people to safety. The wire slide then slides the injured from the tower to the ground and is transported by a special protective vehicle (MRAP). At the same time, alarm and fire suppression systems will be activated to buy time for evacuations.

SpaceX’s Demo-2 is expected to be launched after May 2020 to certify and rehearse for the subsequent sending of astronauts to the International Space Station.