Amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) arrived at Naval Base San Diego after completing the third Underway Recovery Test (URT-3) for NASA’s Orion Program, Sept. 19.
USNS Salvor (ARS 52) was completing URT-4A, a towing and recovery test with NASA’s test model of the crew module when Anchorage arrived at the recovery site off the coast of Southern California. Using its crane, Salvor deployed the crew module into the open ocean. Anchorage positioned itself for recovery of the module, accounting for sea state, winds, and other environmental factors.
Deploying the module from Salvor gave Anchorage an opportunity to treat this as a real recovery, because ship’s crew didn’t have to release the module into the water. During URT-2, Anchorage both deployed and recovered the module.
“We have a good understanding of the challenges we have ahead of us,” said Jeremy Graeber, NASA’s Recovery Director. “We demonstrated how we would recover from a certain point of the timeline, executed the recovery, and got the module into the well deck safely. We were focusing on putting ourselves into a realistic recovery.”
URT-3 is the third at-sea testing, Anchorage’s second, of the Orion crew module using a well-deck recovery method. The first testing was conducted aboard USS San Diego (LPD 22). The initial Stationary Recovery Test occurred at Naval Station Norfolk in August 2013 aboard USS Arlington (LPD 24).
Expeditionary Strike Group Three is overseeing URT-3 while Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Eight is providing air support for observation and documentation. Anchorage Sailors are conducting small boat operations using rigid-hulled inflatable boats in support of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One divers. Fleet Weather Center San Diego monitored and reported sea and weather conditions during the test.
Press Release, September 22, 2014; Image: US Navy