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 the Orion crew capsule design was originally given to Carderock, the heat shield was to be made of PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator) material. (NASA has since chosen the Avcoat ablator system that was used on Apollo capsules.) “Our heat shield,” says Carrico, “obviously isn’t PICA. But it serves the same function in terms of weight distribution. That’s all it has to do. This is not a flight article, this is just for at-sea testing. So we’ve simulated the weight of the PICA, but we’ve taken it a step further because the PICA saturates”—which adds significantly to the weight of the capsule.