Bad Ideas Never Die
The MLAS, which I thought had been shelved due to lack of funds, is apparently nearing its test launch:
Specially funded outside of the Constellation program, under the leadership of former Constellation head Scott Horowitz and NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), the MLAS is confirmed to be just a month away from an opening salvo of tests…
For now, the Constellation program are only classing MLAS as an “alternative” to the LAS tower, even though it would be near unthinkable to make such a large change to Ares I at this stage of development.
“Near unthinkable”. Don’t be too sure – it’s never too late for a major architecture change.
“Like the leading NASA launch abort concept, MLAS offers a safe, reliable method of pulling the spacecraft capsule and crew out of danger in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the climb to Earth orbit,” noted NASA in releasing the date of the pad abort test.
Don’t forget the rainbow-enhanced unicorn guidance system that will keep it stable.
“A NASA team is preparing to demonstrate an alternate escape system design to explore different technological approaches. Named after Maxime (Max) Faget, a Mercury-era pioneer, the Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) concept will be validated by conducting an unmanned pad-abort test in March at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.”
The dates listed involve a parachute drop test of the MLAS on March 5, followed by the pad abort test on March 27.
My cynical guess: if the test succeeds, there will be pressure on Constellation to adopt this concept regardless of cost and schedule impact, and if it fails, Orion will get a black eye in public and in Congress (and never mind this was an internal NASA effort separate from the main Orion project).