Rescue missile

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The Copenhagen Suborbitals TDS rescue missile tested in August 2012
Launch and entry suit; is only worn during take-off and landing and offers astronauts more protection in an emergency. Exhibit German Space Exhibition

A rescue rocket - also known as a rescue tower - is a safety device for manned spaceships . It is mounted on the tip of the spacecraft before launch.


In the event of a fatal failure of the launcher (e.g. fire or explosion on the launch pad, failure of the drive in the launch phase, etc.), the rescue rocket has the task of transporting the detonated landing capsule or the entire spaceship out of the danger area, and, if necessary, carried high enough that the main parachutes of the landing capsule can be deployed. The acceleration forces that occur are so high that the astronauts affected can suffer permanent damage. Rescue missiles use solid rockets with very high thrust and short burning times.

As soon as there are other rescue options for the crew during the ascent of the rocket, the rescue rocket is detached from the capsule in order to save weight.


The rescue rocket was triggered during the following manned missions:

Alternative solutions

The space capsule of the New Shepard rocket has integrated engines instead of a separate rescue rocket . Corresponding technology is also used in the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spaceships .

For financial and design reasons, no emergency rescue systems were developed for the Gemini spaceship and the space shuttle . The seven-person crew of the shuttle flight STS-51-L was killed in a take-off accident.

See also

Commons : Rescue systems  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  • David Shayler: Space rescue: ensuring the safety of manned spaceflight. Springer, Chichester 2009, ISBN 978-0-387-69905-9 .