Mission Successful: NASA and DoD Ace First Recovery Test for Artemis II

NASA Completes First Recovery Test for Artemis II

Naval helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 “Wildcards” fly over the Orion Crew Module Test Article (CMTA) with American flags after completing operations during an Artemis II mission simulation during NASA’s Underway Recovery Test 10 (URT-10) off the coast of San Diego. Credit: NASA/Kenny Allen

NASA and the Department of Defense completed the first recovery test for the Artemis II mission, simulating astronaut extraction and spacecraft recovery. The test is part of a series aimed at preparing for the Artemis II flight, marking a pivotal point in human deep-space exploration and future lunar landings.

On August 1, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense successfully completed the first recovery test for the crewed Artemis II mission off the coast of San Diego. During the test, the team practiced how they will extract the four astronauts who will venture around the Moon from their spacecraft after they land in the Pacific Ocean, and recover the Orion crew module.

Learning From Past Missions

Building upon the lessons learned from the successful recovery of the Orion spacecraft after the Artemis I flight test, and incorporating the addition of crew for Artemis II, recovery teams are revising their timelines and procedures. The revisions aim to ensure the astronauts will be safely delivered to the recovery ship in less than two hours after splashing down.

During the test, NASA’s landing and recovery team used a new crew module test article (see image below), with personnel from the team standing in for the four astronauts who will fly on the mission. The aim was to effectively demonstrate the revised procedures.

Artemis II Orion Underway Recovery Test 10 (URT-10)

The Crew Module Test Article (CMTA) is seen in the waters of the Pacific Ocean during NASA’s Underway Recovery Test 10 (URT-10). The CMTA is a full-scale mockup of the Orion spacecraft and is used by NASA and its Department of Defense partners to practice recovery procedures for crewed Artemis missions. URT-10 is the first test specifically in support of the Artemis II mission and allowed the team to practice what it will be like to recover astronauts and get them back to the recovery ship safely. Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Ensuring Astronaut Safety

“Ensuring the safety of the Artemis II crew, not only around the Moon, but once they return to Earth, is our primary focus, said Lili Villarreal, NASA’s landing and recovery director..”With the exceptional efforts of the NASA team and Department of Defense, we will once again bring our astronauts safely home from the Moon.”

Post-Mission Procedures

After the crew’s splashdown at the end of their mission, a team of Navy divers will approach Orion to confirm it is safe for the astronauts to exit. The divers will then open the spacecraft hatch and help the astronauts exit one by one onto an inflatable raft called the “front porch.” The raft, wrapping around the capsule, provides a platform from which the crew will be airlifted to the recovery ship located several thousand yards away. Once the astronauts are aboard the ship, teams will secure the Orion module with a series of lines and slowly tow it back inside the ship, just as they did during Artemis I.

Preparations for Future Recovery Test

Prior to the recent test, the Artemis II crew, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, visited Naval Base San Diego to meet with the recovery team and learn more about the recovery vessel and testing that will help bring them safely back to shore. The crew will participate in a future recovery test next year as part of their mission training.

Series of Demonstrations and Future Missions

While this test, Underway Recovery Test 10 (URT-10), was the first time NASA and its Navy and Air Force partners put their Artemis II recovery operations to the test, it is tenth in a series of demonstrations at sea off the coast of California. The recovery team will capture lessons learned and apply them to future underway tests to make sure they are ready to recover the Artemis II crew and bring them home safely.

The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight will test NASA’s foundational human deep space exploration capabilities, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, for the first time with astronauts and will pave the way for lunar surface missions, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

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