Saturday, March 28, 2009

NASA's Orion Capsule Built and Tested at NSWC Carderock

WEST BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division engineers, along with a NASA test and evaluation team are conducting initial Post-Landing Orion Recovery Test(PORT) operations, March 23-27.

The team will test a full-scale model of NASA's Orion space capsule at Carderock's pentagon-shaped test pond.

The model, measuring 16.5 feet in diameter and weighing 18,000 pounds, was built by NSWC Carderock in its model fabrication facility. The area is primarily used for Navy ship and submarine model design, fabrication, mission test support, and specialized manufacturing services using computer aided numerically controlled machines, programming, stereolithography, manufacturing, wood and composite material fabrication.

NSWC Carderock, a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command, also uses its model fabrication facility to design ships and systems that are both "state of the art" and easily upgradable.

The PORT objective is to determine what the environment will be like for the astronaut and recovery crews at landing, and incorporate those lessons into the spacecraft design.

The Carderock test pond provides a controlled environment for NASA space crew recovery personnel and 920th Air Wing's Para Rescue Divers for familiarization diving before testing procedures in the uncontrolled waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the week of Apr. 6.

"Divers were in the water March 25, practicing attaching flotation collars," said Richard Banko, Carderock lead engineer and principle Navy-NASA test coordinator. "We're currently testing opening and closing the hatch with the flotation collars in place and then we're going to do night testing, and conduct these evolutions all over again without natural lighting, using only the diver's lighting."

After completing diver familiarization, the crew module will be transported to the National Mall in Washington for display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Alan Rhodes, NASA's Constellation Program Test and Verification officer, had high praise for the quality of work NSWC Carderock personnel provided for their Orion project.

"The Carderock team has gone far above and beyond our expectations in support of this project that I'm almost at a loss for words of praise," said Rhodes. "When you look at where we started planning a year and a half ago, and look at the finished crew model, and its water testing, it's truly amazing how well this model was built, how well it fits within the tolerances we've asked for it."

Carderock engineers and researchers will also participate in the testing when the model is transported to sea and launched by NASA's space shuttle solid rocket booster recovery ship. The team will quantify the seakeeping characteristics of the mock-up.

"It's a test model we will use for years to come, and we have the right team from Carderock to thank for it," said Rhodes.