The U.S. Navy on Thursday took part in the first recovery test of the NASA Orion spacecraft at Naval Station Norfolk as part of a partnership to develop procedures to recover the Orion capsule and crew after splashdown.
During the test, sailors assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) used tow lines to recover a test version of NASA’s Orion crew module into the flooded well deck of Arlington. With the capsule in position over the recovery cradle, it then took 45 minutes for the water to drain and the capsule to settle.
The stationary recovery test is helping to ensure that when Orion returns from deep space missions and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, the methods used to recover the spacecraft and obtain critical heat shield data are sound.
Navy divers prepared for the recovery test in Norfolk by training in the 6.2 million gallon pool at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.
An open water recovery test is scheduled for January 2014.
Orion’s first mission, Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1, scheduled for September 2014, will send an uncrewed spacecraft 3,600 miles into Earth’s orbit before returning to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Coast.
The flight test will provide engineers with critical data about Orion’s heat shield, flight systems and capabilities to validate designs of the spacecraft before it begins carrying humans to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.