Spectacular Photos: NASA Practices Orion Space Capsule Recovery at Sea

Bringing Astronauts Home

Kim Shiflett/NASA

The Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7) wasn't just designed to test whether the team can recover equipment, of course. The Orion capsule will have astronauts on board, and they'll need to be brought in to safety. That means that the test process included simulations of bringing in and tending a human strapped to a gurney.

The "Front Porch"

Kim Shiflett/NASA

Navy divers practiced assembling the inflatable "front porch" onboard the USS John P. Murtha during the tests. When a crewed Orion capsule lands, astronauts will have the choice of staying in the capsule during its retrieval or exiting via this "front porch," which is then assembled on the open ocean into a boat.

How Much Water?

Kim Shiflett/NASA

The water level inside the USS John P. Murtha's well deck can be controlled, but that means it needs to be monitored, as recovery team personnel do here.

LLAMAs Galore

Kim Shiflett/NASA

The recovery process for the Orion capsule requires plenty of rigging lines and winch lines, like the one being managed by Jose Martinez, an instrumentation engineer with Jacobs, in this image. Personnel working on the test refer to these lines as line load attenuation mechanism assemblies, or LLAMAs.

Heading Out

Kim Shiflett/NASA

Divers with the U.S. Navy prepare to leave the well deck of the USS John P. Murtha on Nov. 1 during the Orion recovery testing process.

Starting a Test

Kim Shiflett/NASA

The test Orion capsule just before its release into open water on Nov. 1 during a recovery test held by NASA and the U.S. Navy on the Pacific Ocean.

Expert Supervision

Kim Shiflett/NASA

Recovery engineer Milt Heflin, who served during the Apollo era as well, looks on during the Orion recovery testing procedures.

Attaching the Collar

Kim Shiflett/NASA

Divers working for the U.S. Navy circled the test capsule with an inflatable collar as part of the recovery tests. In this photo, the capsule sports two orange bags that help it orient properly, but the real thing will sport five of them.


Jamie Peer/NASA

NASA and Navy personnel as seen during a recovery test on Oct. 31.

An Evening's Work

Tony Gray/NASA

The USS John P. Murtha sails into the sunset on Nov. 1, with its well deck lit up by Orion capsule-recovery test procedures.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.