Trial by Water
NASA tests the seaworthiness of its new moonship.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, April 27, 2009
NASA plans to return to the moon by 2020, and the Orion crew exploration vehicle is scheduled to fly its first missions to the International Space Station as early as 2014. But before that can happen, recovery teams need to know how to rescue the astronauts and retrieve the capsule after a splashdown in the ocean.
Last year, NASA contacted the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in Bethesda, Maryland, about testing models of the Orion crew capsule—which has an interior volume nearly twice that of Apollo’s—in order to help recovery teams become familiar with the capsule’s performance.
Click on the photo gallery to see how the Orion models have been tested in tanks, “wave ponds,” and—most recently—in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean during two weeks of tests conducted in April 2009 (pictured).
“What we’re looking to take away from our...testing,” says Todd Carrico, a naval architect at Carderock and lead test engineer on the project, “is to nail down the sea-keeping performance of this capsule in certain sea states. Of course, the divers are looking to give a thumbs up and say, ‘Hey, we can actually recover this thing.’ ”