The US Navy’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) has departed from Naval Base San Diego in order to take part in NASA’s Orion mission.
USS Anchorage is set to collaborate with NASA to carry out an underway recovery test off the coast of Southern California under the initiative.
The recovery test forms part of a government interagency effort to safely practice and assess recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel in an open ocean environment, which will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it returns back to Earth.
The spacecraft is intended to return following Exploration Mission 1, which is currently slated for December next year.
An unmanned flight is expected to be conducted as part of the development in order to pave the way for subsequent crewed missions, as well as to allow future missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.
The latest departure represents the fourth time USS Anchorage has been deployed to perform an underwater recovery test mission with NASA.
A number of different San Antonio-class vessels have been involved in the programme to help prepare NASA and the US Navy by using a mock capsule designed to be roughly the same size, shape, and centre of gravity as NASA’s Orion crew module.
LPD 23’s specially trained bridge team will be on watch throughout the duration of the vessel’s operations.
In addition, small boats carrying US Navy divers and NASA’s recovery team will be deployed alongside the mock module to rig tending lines, thereby guiding the capsule to the vessel as it safely operates on station.
NASA personnel are set to work in collaboration with the navy to conduct recovery operations, both during the day and at night.
NASA intends to perform three additional underway recovery test missions before the launch of Exploration Mission 1.