Navy Divers Train to Recover the Orion Capsule After Launch

NASA/Bill White

New videos released this week offer a glimpse of what it might look like when NASA astronauts have to abort a mission because of a launch problem. It will be wet.

On October 27, NASA tested its fifth recovery of an uncrewed Orion capsule in open water. In a series of two videos released by the U.S. Navy on Friday, divers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 and Mobile Dive and Salvage Company 3-1 are shown towing the capsule through the Pacific Ocean back to the USS San Diego:

The tests will aid NASA in “utilizing NASA and Naval technology with the goal of reducing manning and increasing safety,” NASA explains.

Prior to ocean testing, recovery divers had been training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, the largest indoor pool in the U.S., at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Divers training at the Johnson Space Center.James Blair/NASA

Here’s video of Orion going into the ship:

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Mars. In an ideal situation, the Orion spacecraft will safely disengage from the rocket when re-entering the eath’s atmosphere and, with the assistance of a parachute, safely drop in the ocean. But the spacecraft is also equipped with a launch abort system that uses jettison engines to safely disengage the spacecraft away from the rocket in the event there is an issue during the launch.

Before testing in open water, NASA performed 10 controlled tests at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virgina. The tests allowed researchers to determine the impact a drop would have on crash test dummies. NASA plans on launching the Orion in 2018, though a crewed mission won’t happen until 2023.

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