By MC3 Taylor Mohr, ACB 2 NASA Delivery
Seabees assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion (PHIBCB) 2 assisted NASA engineers as they prepared to conduct a recovery test of NASA’s crew module aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24), Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Va., Aug. 12.
PHIBCB 2 was tasked to transport the Orion training capsule using their Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) craft. The capsule was loaded onto the INLS craft at Fort Eustis, Va., and then transported to Naval Station Norfolk where it was loaded into the stern gate of the Arlington.
“This is the first time a NASA space capsule has ever been loaded into the well deck of a Navy ship,” said Lou Garcia, NASA recovery director in charge of the loading operation. “This is a major logistics effort for both the Navy and NASA.”
“We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to practice stern gate marriage operations before this one and I am now confident we are proficient at it,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Benjamin Taylor, the craft master piloting the INLS craft used in the operation. “I am happy to report that I have an awesome crew I can depend on when we have lots of eyes on us.”
The Orion training capsule is a 16-foot, four-personnel upgrade of the Apollo capsule, which was half the size and carried a crew of three. This new capsule allows for astronauts to exit the capsule while inside the safe confines of an amphibious ship. The previous model relied on the astronauts exiting the capsule in the rough open ocean—a task far too dangerous and weather dependent.
The Stationary Recovery Test (SRT) with the Arlington will allow NASA and the Navy to demonstrate and evaluate the recovery processes, procedures, hardware and personnel in a controlled environment before committing to testing in open waters, said Cmdr. Darren Nelson, commanding officer, USS Arlington.
The U.S. Navy has been a part of America’s space program since its beginning. From 1961 to 1975, Navy ships recovered Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft after splashing down in the open oceans, transporting capsules and crews safely back to their loved ones on land.