U.S. Navy and NASA rehearse spacecraft recovery at sea
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. The U.S. Navy reported that its San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) successfully completed a recent test of recovery operations of a mock-up of NASA's Orion crew module.
The Underway Recovery Test-6 (URT-6) was part of a U.S. government interagency effort to put together a team charged with safely retrieving the future Orion crew module, which will be capable of carrying humans into deep space.
This most recent test is the fourth completion of a URT aboard USS Anchorage. NASA engineers, sailors from the Anchorage, personnel from the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18), sailors from Special Boat Team 12, and Navy divers from Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 worked together to test recovery operations of the Orion test article in varying sea conditions, during the day and at night.
According to Navy documents, operations during URT-6 consisted of releasing the test capsule from the well deck, carefully maneuvering the ship alongside the capsule at slow speed, and releasing the lines attaching the capsule to the ship. Divers then attached a stabilization ring -- designed by NASA -- designed to sustain the astronauts in the capsule for up to three days. Divers then removed the collar and attached lines from the small boats to steady and guide the capsule toward Anchorage, where rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) would attach lines from a NASA-designed winch to haul the capsule into the well deck.
The recovery tests enable NASA and the Navy to continue to demonstrate and evaluate the Orion recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an actual open-ocean environment before conducting actual recovery operations. NASA Recovery Director Melissa Jones says that these and future tests will ensure that NASA and the Navy arrive at a safe and efficient process to recover the capsule when it actually
flies with a crew, which is scheduled for the early 2020s.