San Antonio-class amphibious warship USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) completed a series of tests practicing the recovery of an Orion spacecraft in anticipation of NASA’s return to launching astronauts into space.
Murtha’s crew and NASA officials conducted several test recoveries during daylight and night hours and in varying states of sea off the West Coast, according to a U.S. 3rd Fleet statement.
“John P. Murtha was tasked to assist NASA with their seventh underway Recovery Test,” Capt. Tony Roach, Murtha’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “Our crew executed of every assignment given to them flawlessly and their recovery-at-sea experience and dedication directly contributed to our overall mission success.”
The first Orion mission – which will be unmanned – is expected to occur in late 2019 and is dubbed Exploration Mission-1. The Navy plans to send San Antonio-class ships such as Murtha out to sea to retrieve the spacecraft after splashdown. Orion is designed to reach deep-space destinations, such as the Moon and eventually Mars, according to NASA.
During Exploration Mission-1, NASA plans to launch an Orion spacecraft aboard a Space Launch System rocket. The Orion spacecraft is expected to travel 280,000 miles from Earth to past the moon, further than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has ever traveled without docking at a space station, according to NASA.
San Antonio-class amphibs have well decks that are designed to launch and recover amphibious craft and small rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIB) – which the Navy intends to use to two Orion spacecraft back to the ships during recovery operations. San Antonio-class ships can launch several RHIBs, and the vessels have an advanced medical facility onboard.
“All test objectives were accomplished as planned,” Melissa Jones, NASA Landing and Recovery director, said in a statement. “The success of this week would not have been possible without the positivity and experience of the John P. Murtha crew.”