The United States Navy completed a series of important tests ahead of the upcoming Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1) for Orion. While most people are looking forward to the launch, the US Navy has been preparing for Orion’s return and concomitant splashdown. In fact, the US Navy will certify that it is capable of conducting splashdown recovery <i>before</i> the launch takes place. The naval vessels USS Anchorage and the USNS Salvo will be taking part in the splashdown portion of Orion’s journey. The Salvo is an auxiliary support vessel.
Before EFT-1 could take place, three major tests had to be successfully completed which include the Lockheed Martin EFT-1 Readiness Review and the United Launch Alliance EFT-1 Program Management Readiness Review. The last significant task for the Navy is the Launch Readiness Review (LRR). The LRR will take place the day before Orion’s launch. The recovery exercises which certified the US Navy’s readiness were conducted at naval bases in San Diego, California, and Norfolk, Virginia.
The actual recovery of Orion will mark the inauguration of the Landing Platform-Dock (LPD) ship. The LPD ship will supersede the older battleship used to recover crew capsules during the era of the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury manned space exploration vessels. Orion marks the official start of the Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2). This first Orion launch will help NASA collect data critical to their launch of human beings early next decade. In fact, the upcoming Orion launch includes a crew module that will eventually support the astronauts. The navy will be looking closely at the crew module to see if it suffers physical damage during the splashdown.
By the year 2021, NASA plans to launch a two-person capsule into outer space. The mission will explore an asteroid caught in the moon’s orbit. It will mark the first time that NASA will have conducted exploration in close proximity to the moon since 1971.
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