NASA Reports Successful Test Recovery of Orion Spacecraft Off San Diego

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Navy personnel attach lines to the Orion spacecraft mock-up in the Pacific off San Diego. Navy photo

NASA and the Navy have reported the successful recovery of a mock-up of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego.

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In the sixth of a series of tests since 2014, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage successfully completed a test recovery on Tuesday.

NASA engineers worked alongside Navy personnel to test recovery operations in varying sea states, both day and at night.

“Testing this week went very well,” said NASA’s Recovery Director Melissa Jones. “We’ve actually shaved about 15 minutes off our timeline already with one run, which is important to us because when we recover crew, we have to get them out as quickly as possible.”

The San Antonio-class ships are uniquely suited to recovery operations because they have well decks into which capsules can be floated.

The recovery process involves divers, who attach a stabilization ring to the capsule, and then personnel on small boats who attach lines and then guide the capsule into the ship’s well deck.

“The whole recovery is a high risk evolution, especially when the capsule is being towed closely behind the ship, but NASA took our inputs and modified the equipment,” said Chief Petty Officer Beau Lontine. “We’ve conducted training with the hardware and rigging to allow for a safe recovery of the capsule.”

The Orion spacecraft is being designed to carry between two and six astronauts beyond earth’s orbit to the moon, a nearby asteroid or even Mars. The first crewed flight could be as early as 2021.

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