Saturday, February 22, 2014

NASA Suspends Orion Space Capsule Recovery Test

Members of the Orion recovery team work to retrieve a test version of Orion's forward bay cover, a protective shell that fits on the crew module, from the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 19. Photo Credit: NASA
SAN DIEGO, California -- The first full joint testing between NASA and the U.S. Navy of the Orion space capsule recovery procedures off the coast of California was suspended after the team experienced difficulties  securing a mock-up test version of Orion inside the well deck of the USS San Diego.



Last Wednesday, NASA and the Navy were conducting tests to prepare for recovery of Orion after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of its first space flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, in September.  The testing was planned to allow teams to demonstrate and evaluate the processes, procedures, hardware and personnel that will be needed for recovery operations.



According to NASA, the cable lines were unable to support the tension caused by crew module motion that was driven by wave turbulence in the well deck of the ship. The team called off the week's remaining testing to allow engineers to evaluate the next steps.


A test version of the Orion spacecraft is tethered inside the well deck of the USS San Diego prior to testing between NASA and the U.S. Navy. To safely bring Orion home after splashdown, it will be towed into the flooded well deck and secured in a special cradle before the water is drained.  Photo Credit: NASA

"Even though the testing didn't go as we had planned, we're learning lessons that will help us be better prepared to retrieve Orion after it travels more than 3,600 miles into space and comes home," said Bill Hill in a NASA press release. "The Orion testing work we do is helping us work toward sending humans to deep space."


NASA said that the testing provided important data that is being used to improve recovery procedures and hardware ahead of Orion’s first flight.  Several of the test objectives were accomplished before the remaining tests were called off, including successful recoveries of the forward bay cover, parachute and demonstrations of the coordination required between the team onboard the ship and mission control in Houston.



During Exploration Flight Test-1, an uncrewed spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida  and travel 15 times farther than the International Space Station before returning to Earth at speeds as fast as 20,000 mph and temperatures above 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to evaluate the spacecraft’s heat shield and other systems.