In light of the recent SpaceX Dragon test, I was wondering if any pad aborts have ever been performed during an actual launch? To my limited knowledge, none have occurred, despite the Soyuz and Apollo vehicles having the capability.

The only launch accident I know of is the Challenger disaster, which could not be saved with the abort modes available to the Shuttle.


2 Answers 2


Soyuz 10 used the launch escape tower from the pad.

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    $\begingroup$ Good grief, they didn't even give abort control to the crew -- abort had to be triggered from the ground. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2015 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not asking a question, just commenting on the Soviet tendency to give the crew as little control as feasible, even to the extent of not giving them the ability to trigger abort. Spam in a can. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2015 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ 14 to 17 G's! The crew survived, but required the immediate administration of vodka after landing. I would too. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    May 7, 2015 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ 4g average, Musk said it peaked at 6g: twitter.com/elonmusk/status/596053122587365376 $\endgroup$ May 7, 2015 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ From the article: "The launch control team activated the escape system but the control cables had already burned through, and the Soyuz crew could not activate or control the escape system themselves." $\endgroup$ May 7, 2015 at 18:20

You'll have to define 'pad abort' as you are talking about both Apollo, Soyuz and the Space Shuttle. Apollo/Soyuz and Space Shuttle are vastly different vehicles, hence they have vastly different definitions of aborts.

There were five RSLS (Redundant Set Launch Sequencer) aborts during the STS programme (on STS-41-D, STS-51, STS-51-F, STS-55 and STS-68). Since these occur after main engine start but before booster ignition (after which the shuttle was committed to launch) I would technically qualify these as 'pad aborts', albeit a lot less spectacular than pad aborts for Apollo or Soyuz.

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    $\begingroup$ I read the question as meaning "rapidly departing the pad" not, aborting and going home for the evening. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    May 7, 2015 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ This probably dates me, but don't forget Gemini-6A en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_6A $\endgroup$
    – DJohnM
    May 7, 2015 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @User58220 Yes. That immediately came to mind :-). I was 14 fwiw. $\endgroup$ May 9, 2015 at 4:27

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