How the Navy will recover NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft after the crash
The Artemis 1 mission will soon be coming to an end, and by then the US Navy will be ready to retrieve the Orion spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean.
The Navy trained in conjunction with NASA on the recovery operation, which will involve raising the Orion capsule ocean and towing it aboard the Navy amphibious transport dock USS Portland with a winch. The USS Portland will then bring Orion to port at Naval Base San Diego.
To prepare for the recovery operation, the US Navy Landing and Recovery Team led by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems program at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and other Department of Defense (DoD) personnel have been training for years, from 2014 (opens in a new tab). This formation now takes on an added sense of urgency, due to Orion hurtling through space at over 1,110 mph (1,786 km/h) on a heading straight to earth.
Related: Watch the moon eclipse Earth in stunning video from Artemis 1’s Orion spacecraft
Orion will be traveling at 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h) when it enters Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday, December 11. After deploying a series of parachutes, the capsule’s descent will slow to just 25 mph (11 km/h) before making “a precise landing within sight of the recovery vessel”. according to NASA (opens in a new tab).
The Artemis 1 team had originally planned to crash land not far from San Diego, but forecast severe weather pushed the target area about 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the south, off Baja California.
In addition to the crew of the USS Portland and its aircraft, the NASA-led landing and recovery team will consist of US Navy divers, US Air Force weather specialists and engineers and technicians from Lockheed Martin Space Operations. (Lockheed Martin manufactures the Orion capsule for NASA.)
Images shared by KSC show the extent of the recovery operation, which will involve the USS Portland, Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters and a variety of small inflatable vessels that will transport US Navy divers to Orion to attach winch cables.
The footage was taken during the team’s ongoing Recovery Test 9, which took place in November 2021 (opens in a new tab). Melissa Jones, NASA’s director of recovery at KSC, said recovery operations training is not just about getting ready for Artemis 1, but about being ready to recover future Orion capsules returning from the moon with astronauts. on board.
“Over the past several years, NASA and the DoD have worked together to develop the procedures and equipment necessary to safely recover Orion, not only after this uncrewed flight, but also for future crewed missions aboard the spacecraft. space,” Jones said at the time.
“It was our dry run mission and certifies our entire team to execute the recovery mission,” Jones said. “It’s been a huge effort on everyone’s part, and our team is incredibly excited that the next time we’re together will be for the real resumption of the mission.”
NASA and the Navy already have an Orion recovery under their belt. This was played at the end of Exploration Flight Test 1which sent an unmanned Orion into Earth orbit for a few hours in December 2014.
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