It’s the seventh in a series of tests of procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean following deep space exploration missions.
The Orion is designed to carry a crew of four beyond low-earth orbit, to the moon, nearby asteroids and perhaps Mars using NASA’s giant Space Launch System rocket. The next test flight is set for 2019, and the first flight with a crew is scheduled for 2021.
The series of recovery tests scheduled through early November will be the first time the John P. Murtha has been used. Other San Antonio-class ships have been involved in past tests. These ships have large well docks into which the capsule can be floated.
“Every recovery test allows the team to gather important data used to improve recovery procedures and hardware,” said Melissa Jones, NASA launch and recovery director. “The primary objective of this test is to prove the recovery equipment works as expected, and if it doesn’t, they have time to fix it before actual splashdown in a couple of years.”
During the sixth test in January, some tending lines snapped during Orion retrieval. The hardware involved has since be redesigned.
NASA plans to conduct two more recovery tests before the 2019 test flight takes place.
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