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Thursday, March 27, 2003

NASA is advised to add ejection seats to Shuttle

Members of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel told officials at NASA that they need to intensify their research of technology to allow astronauts to escape safely from the Shuttle in case of an emergency. "If we fly this vehicle until 2020, we can be assured we'll lose another vehicle and maybe two," said Sidney M. Gutierrez, a member of the safety council and former astronaut. With a 98% safety margin (less than the 99.99%, NASA safety requirement), the margin cannot be adequately raised with only updates to the older systems. The safety margin cannot be appreciably improved with upgrades to other elements of the space shuttle, Gutierrez said, but pressurized ejection systems, which would protect astronauts during high speed, high altitude bailouts, would offer protection for the crew. Since the Shuttle's equipment was designed more than 20 years ago, Robert B. Sieck, a retired NASA launch director, said, the standards of safety certification should be re-evaluated and, perhaps, revised. "The system is in its mid-life and it would be appropriate for it to get a mid-life recertification," he said.

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- posted by Jim @ 16:05 EST