The first full test by NASA and the U.S. Navy of recovery procedures for the new Orion space capsule was suspended Thursday after the team experienced issues with lines securing the test capsule inside the well deck of the USS San Diego.

NASA and the Navy were conducting tests off the coast of San Diego to prepare for recovery of Orion after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of its first space flight in September. The testing was planned to evaluate the processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that will be needed for recovery operations.

A test version of the Orion spacecraft is tethered inside the well deck of the USS San Diego. NASA photo.

The lines were unable to support the tension caused by the capsule’s motion due to wave turbulence in the well deck of the ship. The team called off the week’s remaining testing to allow engineers to evaluate next steps.

“Even though the testing didn’t go as we had planned, we’re learning lessons that will help us be better prepared to retrieve Orion after it travels more than 3,600 miles into space and comes home,” said Bill Hill, assistant deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The Orion testing work we do is helping us work toward sending humans to deep space.”

Orion is America’s new spacecraft that will take astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have an emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space.

During Exploration Flight Test-1 planned for September, an uncrewed spacecraft will travel 15 times farther than the International Space Station before returning to Earth at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph and temperatures above 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to evaluate the spacecraft’s heat shield and other systems.

— From a NASA press release

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.