by Robert Talmage of TAAS Company

TAAS  Aircraft Escape Cabin

TAAS Aircraft Escape Cabin

Various NASA spokespersons, astronauts and directors are seeking a tenfold increase in flight safety standards for future astronauts. Many of these comments are referenced in an article,  “NASA Clamors for Safer Launchers”, in Florida Today (November 29, 2009) by Todd Halvorson.

In addition, Wayne Hale, NASA Deputy Administrator for Strategic Partnerships went further speaking to the commercial space industry at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, (ISPCS) in October this year, saying most likely NASA would require a crew escape system on any services they contract for in crew transportation.

Due to the launch dynamics, achieving these new safety levels in vertical launch vehicles will be far more difficult than for horizontal launch vehicles. Crew escape from a vertical launch failure imposes the most significant risks, weight penalties and complexities of the escape system. For instance, the Apollo Command Module (CM) carried three crewmen, at a total mass of 6000 kg. The recovery parachutes and equipment to land the CM, amounted to 250 kg or 4.2 % of the CM’s total mass. The Launch Escape System (LES) necessary to lift the CM away from a launch failure weighed 4200 kg. This adds significant weight penalties to the launch vehicle, complexities and costs since the LES is expendable each flight. Just to protect the crew during launch, the vertical launch vehicle must carry the LES, adding weight penalties sixteen times that of the parachutes and recovery systems.

Utilizing aerodynamics in a horizontal launch vehicle eliminates the need of an escape tower (LES), by employing aircraft style flight safety characteristics. The other risks imposed by rocket propulsion, extreme speeds, altitudes and aerodynamic heating during the flight also warrants an escape system as identified by NASA. Current escape technology for aircraft will not meet the requirements for space flight or accommodate multiple individuals. By satisfying these escape needs for a space plane, we can avoid the severe weight penalties associated with escape towers and fly individuals to space in aircraft style safety and efficiency. Vertical launch vehicles are best suited for un-manned operations.

The Aircraft Escape Cabin (AEC) represents the first new escape technology in a decade. The AEC enables crew escape and recovery from supersonic speeds and extreme altitudes. In an emergency, the AEC separates and glides to the most desirable landing site on water or land. Equipped with light weight, simple devices and parachute technology, the AEC provides safe crew recovery from most any in-flight emergency.

The AEC’s modular feature also satisfies military crew survival needs and offers the economics and versatility of interchangeable modular sections. The primary markets for this modular technology are in new space, military operations and flight test vehicles. In addition, flight research is the first expenditure on new aerospace vehicles. Currently, no manned supersonic, high altitude, rocket powered, flight test vehicles are available. Targeting this market satisfies an urgent need and offers a valuable service for the development of new vehicles and propulsion systems.

The simplicity of the AEC technique enables it to be adapted to an existing aircraft. TAAS Company in Georgia, teamed with other aerospace companies, proposes to demonstrate a prototype AEC. Since it is relatively small, without propulsion or landing gear, the projected cost to fabricate and fly the AEC is less than $350,000. The prototype can subsequently be used with a rocket powered flight test vehicle.

High speed and altitude trajectories will change aviation as we know it. World transportation and access shrinks in time from double digits to two hours. Eventually, with additional speed, crew and passengers will be flying in orbit. Flight testing is the most urgent need and for this we need new escape technology.

TAAS Company

Design & Consulting

PO Box 2325

Acworth,  GA.  30102

Rocket Powered Flight Test Plane with Aircraft Escape Cabin

As New Space moves more closer to the point, when people will actually be testing and flying new suborbital systems, safety is a paramount if the New Space movement is going to develop into a real business.

Entrepreneur and flight safety advocate Robert Talmage gave 62MileClub permission to publish this outline of  a potential system he is proposing.

A Modular Space Plane
Robert N. Talmage, President
TAAS Company, Flight Safety for the 21st Century

Flight safety is undeniably the most important issue for passengers and crew; however, aircraft operators may accept lower levels of safety to reduce costs, weight penalties and avoid complex systems. Now with new modular escape technology, passengers can enjoy near-perfect safety and operators can benefit as well from the other modular features. For military aircraft operating in hostile environments and vehicles flying in extreme conditions, an escape system is essential. The modular Aircraft Escape Cabin (AEC) protects occupants from hostilities, accidents, malfunctions and negligence without significant costs or weight penalties. Furthermore, the modular technique reduces the costs of manufacturing, maintenance, repairs and training as well as enabling interchangeable vehicle configurations. An ideal application for this modular design is a space flight test vehicle which will be discussed later in this paper.

Historical Perspective

Utilization of aircraft-style operations has long been considered the ideal way for people to access space.  However, aircraft flight profiles did not satisfy the initial requirement for space vehicles which was to deliver ballistic weapons. The military criteria mandated a rapid vertical launch and ballistic re-entry to minimize flight time and possible interception of the warhead. Historically, civilian space programs emerged from ballistic missile technology and military space activities.

Rear view escape cabin

Rear view escape cabin

Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV)

The Space Shuttle was the first semi re-useable launch vehicle. The Orbiter glides back to a runway landing, the solid rocket boosters are recovered from the ocean, and only the external tank is expendable. Initially the Orbiter design incorporated a human escape system; however, it was eliminated due to the system’s complexity and weight penalties. The large number of RLV designs being considered today indicates their attractive economical advantages. As with the Shuttle, most all of these designs rely on the
primary vehicle to return. Neither “SpaceShipTwo” nor “Lynx” by XCOR have an emergency recovery capability. Blue Origin has not released information on their vertical launch and return vehicle, but their crew capsule may possibly be able to separate in an emergency from the vehicle and be recovered by parachute.

The Modular Aircraft Escape Cabin (AEC)
(US patent # 6,776,373)

Plug in escape cabin

Plug in escape cabin

The risks associated with rocket engines, volatile fuels, extreme speeds and the space environment justify an escape and recovery system. Other than Apollo-style capsules, there is not a current escape system designed for space vehicles. The AEC satisfies these needs without significant weight penalties, complex systems or high costs. The modular design minimizes weight penalties by enabling all components to function in dual roles under normal operations and in emergency situations with the exception of the parachute. The plug-in attachment technique minimizes complexity and costs. The flight controls on the escape cabin enables it to stabilize flight, decelerate, glide and select a desirable landing site. The AEC satisfies the safety needs for high-risk vehicles as well as high performance aircraft.

Market Potential for Space Flight Test Vehicles

The imminent flights of SpaceShipTwo and other sub-orbital space planes will demonstrate the capabilities of rapid global point-to-point transportation and efficient space planes. As an outcome of this development, military, government and commercial programs will compete to develop new engines
and reusable space vehicles. A practical escape system will become a vital component for the success of future human space vehicles.

The AEC can be demonstrated promptly and economically using an existing airframe. Once demonstrated, the technology can be licensed for military aircraft, flight test vehicles and new space planes. The same aircraft modified to demonstrate the AEC can be equipped with rocket engines to operate as the first commercial space flight test vehicle. Optimum development of new space vehicles and propulsion systems will require space flight test vehicles for high fidelity data and simulation.
By using an existing airframe such as the Learjet, the AEC technique can be demonstrated in twelve months at an estimated cost of four million dollars. With installation of a rocket propulsion system, a modified aircraft can safely operate as a space flight test vehicle. Each flight will generate revenue from flight test services and sponsorships. Operating at speeds and altitudes unattainable by current aircraft, the vehicle will support development of new engines and high speed vehicles by providing the platform and aerodynamic data necessary. Should a catastrophic failure occur, the AEC will recover the crew and flight test data to analyze the specific failure.


The success of future human space vehicles depends on their safety, economics and engine performance. The AEC offers a practical method to solve safety issues for space planes and military aircraft. These two markets desperately need new escape technology and represent a tremendous potential market. The proposed flight demonstration opens these markets and creates a new one for space flight test vehicles. The AEC business plan requires minimum investment, involves minimal risk, has no existing competition, and accesses multiple markets. A good analogy is the development of our modern skyscrapers. We had the capability, but it was not until Elisha Otis introduced the “safety brake” for elevators, that soaring skyscrapers became practical. The AEC, a new modular escape system holds similar potential to open space by providing that same vital element of near-perfect safety.

Listen to an archived  interview on The Space Show with Robert Talmage.