Friday, August 23, 2013

Orion Space Craft Tests


Spacey awesomeness continued from yesterday's Orion crash tests by NASA Langley's Project Splash! Just when you think it can't get any cooler, I and some other enthusiastic SpaceTweeps visited the Norfolk Naval Air Station at Sewell's Point on the Elizabeth River.

Can you say, "largest naval complex in the world"?!  Also, if you're into American history, we were near the site of the battle of the Monitor and Merrimac (CSS Virginia). We felt very honored to be allowed on base, with a knowledgeable Navy escort who took us along the 14 piers, where we spied various Destroyers, Aircraft Carriers, and Cargo Ships.

Said piers regularly support 75 ships in total, and 134 aircraft, amid the highest concentration of U.S. Navy forces. Port Services controls more than three thousand ships' movements annually as they arrive and depart their berths. You want to be on your best behavior, here.

Once situated among Navy, Marines, Lockheed-Martin personnel, local press and even Virginia Congressmen(!), we witnessed a by-the-book Stationery Recovery Test of an Orion capsule from ocean into the USS Arlington, San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (also called landing/platform dock), designed to transport troops and helicopters by sea.

This class of ship also has a wide "well deck" that can take on (up to) 14 feet of water in ballast, and quickly deballast, to capture or release water crafts... or in our case, the new class of space capsules being developed by NASA and Lockheed for the next generation of missions. We hope!

In this second video, Commander Brett Moyes, Future Plans Branch chief, U.S. Fleet Forces, narrates the guiding of tending lines to attach-points, so the capsule can be loaded into the well deck -- free of tangles, without smashing into walls, and without killing or drowning any of the Navy sailors or Navy Dive Team involved.

Some men above water, and some men below water -- all worked together to maneuver the module.  It may look slow and simple, but don't be fooled. This is a precision operation of many complex procedural checklists when you're on the water -- and when genuine capsule recoveries are performed, it will most certainly be with higher waves, higher winds, and perhaps less forgiving weather.

What a rush to see the very capsule from crash test films up close, in the ocean for the next testing phase! Next year, the U.S. Navy will team with NASA again to recover a capsule out to sea, so the word "stationery" will be dropped from the recovery test.  We're seeing mission experiments in action!

For photographs of the entire day, see the NASA Langley album in my Pillownaut Picasa galleries.  Includes snaps around LaRC, Orion sea recovery, plus older pictures of Orion mockup crafts at the final Space Shuttle launch (STS-135) and the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) in Houston, Texas.