The Shuttle flight rules provided for launch aborts if the vehicle suffered severe failures: cabin leak, loss of cooling, severe electrical problems, etc. These rules were in addition to the rules covering aborts for engines-out, performance problems, etc.

I've reviewed the Apollo 11 Mission Rules, and I couldn't find anything similar. Would Apollo have aborted during ascent for anything except performance problems / loss of control?


2 Answers 2


In general it looks like getting into orbit was preferred whenever possible, but there are abort indications for a number of spacecraft systems problems.

From page 3-1 of the Apollo 11 Mission Rules document:

The launch will be aborted for the following reasons-- ...


  1. Environmental

    • Loss of cabin and suit pressure

    • Loss of cabin pressure and suit circulation

    • Fire/smoke in CM

    • Loss of cabin pressure and O2 manifold leak

  2. Electrical

    • Loss of 3 fuel cells and 1 battery

    • Uncontrollable shorted main bus

    • Loss of both AC buses during Mode I or Mode II

  3. Propulsion

    • Sustained leak or loss of He pressure (source or manifold) in both CM-RCS rings (Mode I only)


D. Team discretion will be used for---

  1. Suit/cabin contamination

  2. Medical problems

The Apollo 12 lightning strike incident came within a hair's breadth of hitting these abort conditions: according to Wikipedia, all three fuel cells went down, and one of the AC inverters (thus one AC bus) also was offline. Presumably, with the launcher still doing its job properly, they would have allowed at least a short time to troubleshoot before abort if both busses had gone down; it was about a full minute from the lightning strike until Pete Conrad threw the "SCE to AUX" switch that allowed the CSM to begin to recover.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Can't see how I missed that, guess I gave up too soon. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2018 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't "loss of cabin and suit pressure" kill the crew? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Jul 10, 2019 at 23:45
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think partial loss of pressure is being considered there. A significant leak could be noticed before crew loss of consciousness, and I think the parachute deployment would be automatically sequenced once the abort was initiated, so there would be at least a fighting chance of surviving. Even if the crew died, bringing the CM down under a chute would help analyze the failure mode. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2019 at 23:50

Did Apollo have provisions for “system aborts” during ascent?


I've reviewed the Apollo 11 Mission Rules, and I couldn't find anything similar.

Here's what I found:

Apollo Ascent Abort:

Search these .PDFs for the word "abort".

  • Page 25 - .PDF 330 pages - "NASA - Manned Spacecraft Center - Mission Rules - Apollo 11" (5/16/69) See Section 1, General Rules and SOP's, Launch Abort Rules (Page 1-10).

  • Page 22 - .PDF 370 pages - "NASA - Manned Spacecraft Center - Mission Rules - Apollo 14" (11/1/70) See Section 1, General Rules and SOP's, Prelaunch Rules (Page 1-9).

  • YouTube - Thomas Beach - "Little Joe II SC 002 launch"

Modern Ascent Abort:

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Could you quote relevant passages from the places you referenced, so that the information is preserved in case the original source becomes unavailable? $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2018 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob answers that are mostly links to somewhere are the same, except moreso. $\endgroup$
    – hobbs
    Jul 13, 2018 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble - I made the answer clearer by separating it from the references and additional interesting/relevant information. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Jul 13, 2018 at 18:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.