Amphibious warship USS San Diego (LPD-22) left Naval Station San Diego, Calif. on Tuesday for an open ocean recovery test of NASA’s planned new Orion space capsule.
The Underway Recovery Test (URT) is the next in a series of test to prove if the San Antonio-class amphibious ships are suitable to recover tje Orion capsules when NASA returns to manned space flight after a hiatus following the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program.
The URT follows a successful August test pier side in Norfolk on USS Arlington (LPD-24).
Up to the Shuttle program, the Navy was responsible for recovering the manned capsules when they splashed down after landing. The dramatic recovery involved Navy divers helping helicopter crews fix lines to the capsule before it was plucked from the ocean and dropped on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
The new recovery procedure will have the capsule floated into the well deck of a San Antonio ship.
“During the test, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 will provide air support for observation and documentation. San Diego (LPD-22) sailors will conduct small boat operations in support of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three divers,” read statement from the Navy
Fleet Weather Center San Diego will be aboard to monitor and report sea and weather conditions during the test. Lastly, sailors from San Diego and USS Anchorage (LPD-23) will support the well-deck operations and recovery of the forward bay cover and parachutes.
The tests are in anticipation of Sept. 2014 EFT-1, when the Orion capsule will embark on its first unmanned out-of-atmosphere test. The capsule will ride a Delta IV-Heavy far enough to allow the capsule to simulate an entry into the atmosphere from deep space. Sailors from a San Antonio-class ship will likely man the capsule recovery.