Chair Force Engineer

Monday, August 06, 2007

It Takes a Carrier Battle Group to Raise a Capsule?

In my last post, I briefly touched on the logistical and fiscal challenges that accompany NASA's impending decision to have Orion make a splashdown recovery. I should not have implied with certainty that such splashdowns will require a carrier battle group.

However, it will take quite a bit of effort and money if NASA wants to duplicate the assets that the US Navy brings to the table. NASA will need a ship equipped with a helipad, medical facilities, tracking radars, and the necessary cranes for hoisting the capsule from the water. It will also need to supply the helicopter and the divers for retrieving the capsule. Perhaps this is a worthwhile investment for NASA. Only time will tell.

I still feel that Orion is operationally disadvantaged now that splashdowns are becoming mandatory. A capsule with airbags could still make a splashdown, but a capsule without airbags would have a very violent landing if it somehow missed its watery target. It will also pose a disadvantage if ISS experiments need to be rushed to a lab upon their return. And, as Rand Simberg points out, the splashdown recovery will probably preclude NASA's goal of reusing each capsule ten times.