PACIFIC OCEAN - San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) successfully completed recovery operations of the NASA Orion crew module, Dec 5.
The Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) recovery is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely retrieve the Orion crew module that is capable of carrying humans into deep space.
"Today the USS Anchorage-NASA team safely retrieved the Orion space capsule after its successful launch and splash down in the Pacific Ocean," said Capt. Michael McKenna, Anchorage's commanding officer.
"Anchorage and NASA worked very closely during the second and third Underway Recovery Tests (URT) earlier this year in preparation for our mission today," McKenna said. "This mission exemplifies the U.S. Navy commitment to the research and development of technologies and techniques to ensure the safety of human space flight support. I could not be more proud of my crew."
EFT-1 is the fifth at-sea testing for the module using a Navy well deck recovery method. There were four tests conducted prior to EFT-1 to prepare the recovery team. The first test, a stationary recovery test, was conducted at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia August 2013.
The other tests were conducted underway aboard the USS San Diego (LPD 22) and Anchorage earlier in 2014.
Anchorage is a unique platform that has a combination of capabilities that are suited to assist NASA with the Orion recovery. LPD-class ships have well-decks, advanced medical facilities, embarked helicopters, three dimensional air-search radar and small boats that can all be leveraged during recovery operations.
Sailors rehearsed for the recovery during the URT when a mock-up of the Orion module was deployed from the ship's well deck and recovered by Navy divers and small boats.
Chief Boatswain's Mate Jason B. Roberts, deck department leading chief petty officer said that he was fully confident in his crew's ability to execute the operation safely and efficiently.
"We practiced this recovery many times with safety as the number one priority. The Sailors were focused and completed the mission at hand successfully," said Roberts. "I couldn't be more proud of our Sailors and the work they accomplished here today."
Anchorage utilized a specially-trained bridge team throughout the duration of the recovery. After the capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean, the ship maneuvered close to it along with small boats to retrieve the equipment safely. Divers attached lines from the small boats to guide the capsule toward Anchorage, where a NASA-designed winch hauled the capsule into the well deck.
"Orion is meant to be reused, which is why we tailored this recovery to accommodate keeping the capsule safe," said Navy Diver 1st Class Matthew Demyers of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.
NASA is embarking on a new era of space exploration. Orion is America's next-generation spacecraft that will take astronauts to new destinations never explored by humans. It will carry crews to distant planetary bodies, provide emergency abort capabilities, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space.
Note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Orion's forward bay cover was recovered.