Trial by Water
NASA tests the seaworthiness of its new moonship.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, April 27, 2009
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
“When we decided we were going to do a water landing,” said Alan Rhodes, part of the Orion test and verification team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, “we sat down and looked at all the different things we needed to review, all the things we hadn’t done with this new design.”
For starters, the engineers at Carderock built a 1/10-scale model to verify the flooding potential of the full-scale model. “It’s a long way to go from a computer to a physical object,” explains Mark Melendez, a mechanical engineer and solid modeling expert at Carderock. And the engineers wanted to see whether their test article would flood.
Lockheed Martin sent Melendez three different models of Orion, from various stages of the design cycle. Using stereolithography (a fabrication process using a liquid resin and a laser to build parts one layer at a time), Melendez constructed a see-through 1/10-scale model.
“All of the detail that’s inside the full-scale model,” says Todd Carrico, Carderock's lead test engineer on the project, “is in the 1/10-scale model. And because of the nature of the material—it’s transparent—we could see the flooding potential very easily.”