An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News
NEWS | Feb. 27, 2023

Network of Nerds: How the Navy Influenced the Design and Recovery of NASA’s Orion Space Capsule

By Dana Klosner, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs

Three Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division employees made up the panel of “Network of Nerds: How the Navy Influenced the Design and Recovery of NASA’s Orion Space Capsule,” at Montgomery College’s IgnITe Hub program on Feb. 6 in Montgomery County, Maryland. The program is designed to give students and the community insights and access to career paths that are available in the field of information technology.

Capital Tech Bridge Director Lauren Hanyok, science and technology photographer Ryan Hanyok and mechanical engineer Mark Melendez gave insights into what it took to build and test the Orion Capsule model and how the data was used in the actual capsule’s design. Additionally, they talked about their overarching career trajectories that led them to becoming a part of the Orion Capsule model testing team.

“Partnering with the IgnITe Hub program gives us the perfect opportunity to provide the community with information on what we do and showcase the diversity of careers Carderock offers,” Lauren Hanyok said. “We are only 20 minutes away, and a lot of people don’t know we’re here or what we do.”

This is Carderock’s third event with the program since its inception less than one year ago.

“This program is timely because of the Artemis mission, and it shows that you can work for the Navy and also work for cool places like NASA,” Lauren Hanyok said. “Hopefully someone in the audience will see themselves in one of the three of us.”

The audience was enthralled when Melendez described some of the actual tests and how the full-scale boiler plate model was built.

“NASA brought a one-quarter scale model over. They wanted to know how it would be towed in the water,” Melendez said. “They wanted to know that if they are going to tow it, they’re not going to flip it over or get water in the hatch. They wanted to know that when the capsule lands how it was going to settle in the water after the tiles were burned away. They wanted to know how the parajumpers who come to retrieve the astronauts would engage the capsule in the water. That was the primary reason they came to us.”

He talked about testing the full-size capsule model in sea states that compared to the size of the waves in “The Deadliest Catch” in Alaska, since one of the spill points was going to be in the North Sea, which is notorious for rough seas, and how the parajumpers would approach the capsule.

“Lockheed Martin designed the actual capsule, and we matched their physical characteristics, what it was going to weigh, the shape and where things were going to be,” Melendez said. “We replicated their internal tanks – anything that would give it that characteristic if it was flooded or if it would sink.”

He went on to describe how the boiler plate was designed.

“A full-scale model was built, with ballasting conditions in place along with a movable one-thousand-pound anglet of lead to test how the capsule would react if it splashed down after a mission when it weighed between 16,000 and 17,000 pounds or if it was fully loaded when it was about 22,000 pounds,” Melendez said.

IgnITe Hub director Kimberly Bloch-Rincan asked the panel what types of careers are available at Carderock and how to get your foot in the door.

Each panel member described their unique career path and gave insights that audience members could utilize on their own career journey.

Ryan Hanyok was studying fine arts photography when a simple visit to Carderock changed his life.

“I saw testing in a giant football field of water with waves and thought it was a bizarre place. I met a photographer who asked me if I wanted to intern, so I jumped on it,” he said. “Growing up I thought working for federal service would be the most boring thing you could possibly ever imagine, but it is never boring. It is always fascinating and very challenging. I got to experience so much of the science, technology development and design and all the things we do for the Navy. Quite literally through a lens.”

His experience was a perfect example of the diverse career paths available at Carderock.

“You could find something related to literally any career that you could do including theater,” Lauren Hanyok said. “We have people who write scripts for our videos. If you’re creative and you’re in the arts we’ve got photography, and graphic designers who create beautiful graphics for internal and external messaging. In other areas, we have technicians who build everything, there are people who write and negotiate contracts to buy specific things we need. Even if you’re not directly involved with science or engineering or NASA, that’s okay. You can be directly connected to really cool stuff.”

Ryan Hanyok discussed how you could try on many different hats during a long stay at Carderock.

“There are a lot of our folks who work here for their entire lives, but there’s not that many who work in exactly the same thing for their 30, 40 or even 50-year careers. That’s actually extremely rare,” he said. “Most people will evolve and jump from one group to another. For instance, I started in photography but through a myriad of experiences I am now working on IT modernization for the Navy and Marine Corps. There’s so much opportunity at a place like Carderock, which has a total of about 3,000 people with sites around the country. We’re a part of a 50,000-person organization. That network of even just the three of us at this table connects to a significant number of thousands by association.”

One of Carderock’s goals is to recruit new and diverse talent. Carderock’s partnership with the IgnITe Hub has been very positively received by college administrators and the community alike.