Photo: Oregon State University

WEC-Sim to support NASA’s lunar test flight

NASA and Lockheed Martin are using the Wave Energy Converter SIMulator (WEC-Sim) to ensure a safe landing of the Orion crew module, set to launch into space this year, in the Pacific Ocean.

Heavy-lift launch vehicle Space Launch System and the Orion crew module will carry out their maiden flights into space this year as part of the Artemis I lunar exploration program.

Orion will orbit the moon for multiple days before returning to Earth and landing in the Pacific Ocean.

WEC-Sim is helping NASA and Lockheed Martin to credibly model forces and the motion of the crew module in the ocean and ensure it uprights upon landing.

According to NREL, when the CM is inverted or sideways, hatch doors and communications antennae can become submerged. An upside-down module can impede recovery operations, as a submerged antenna can cut the recovery team’s communications with the module.

Therefore, the team is employing the tool to model the dynamics of the crew module in the open ocean to aid in evaluating the Crew Module Uprighting System’s (CMUS) performance and loads.

“Apollo also had an uprighting system with airbags, which was tested in more than 100 uprighting tests,” said Molly Selig from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“Unlike the Apollo Uprighting System that came before it, the Orion Crew Module Uprighting System will be subjected to a much smaller number of tests, instead relying more heavily upon modeling. This is where WEC-Sim comes into play.”

WEC-Sim is an open-source wave energy converter simulator that aims to aid device manufacturers, project developers, and other interested parties to analyze and optimize proof-of-concept and prototype WEC devices.

It is developed by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and SNL and funded by the US Department of Energy.