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45th SW, Det. 3 supports NASA's Orion project

HAMPTON, Va. – An Orion boilerplate test article floats in the water near a U.S. Navy ship during a stationary recovery test Aug. 13 at the Naval Station Norfolk near NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Members of the 45th Space Wing Operations Group Detachment 3, participated in recovery test operations of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle aboard the USS Arlington (LPD-24). Detachment 3 personnel served as the liaison between NASA personnel, U.S. Navy Sailors, divers and contractors from across the country. Photo/NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

HAMPTON, Va. – An Orion boilerplate test article floats in the water near a U.S. Navy ship during a stationary recovery test Aug. 13 at the Naval Station Norfolk near NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Members of the 45th Space Wing Operations Group Detachment 3, participated in recovery test operations of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle aboard the USS Arlington (LPD-24). Detachment 3 personnel served as the liaison between NASA personnel, U.S. Navy Sailors, divers and contractors from across the country. Photo/NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Members of the 45th Space Wing Operations Group Detachment 3, participated in recovery test operations of NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Aug. 13-15, aboard the USS Arlington (LPD-24) in Norfolk, Va.

"Detachment 3 personnel served as the liaison between NASA personnel, U.S. Navy Sailors, divers and contractors from across the country, according to Maj. Seth Rann, 45th OG Detachment 3 assistant director of operations.

Additionally, the team provided subject matter expertise necessary to bridge the information gap between NASA's Orion recovery requirements and the Department of Defense support capabilities, according to Rann.

"Detachment 3 ensured the joint effort had the required support for mission accomplishment," said Lt. Col. Mike McClure, 45th OG Detachment 3 commander USSTRATCOM-directed DOD manager for human space flight support. "This historic opportunity to validate Orion recovery procedures brings NASA one step closer to launching astronauts from our home soil."

The test began with logistical transport of a mock-up Orion capsule from NASA Langley Research Center and transited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., and Naval Station Norfolk, Va., aboard the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS).

"The testing proved that the Orion can be safely recovered by a Navy well-deck ship upon return from deep space missions," Rann said. "It involved flooding the well-deck of the Arlington to a depth of six feet to enable the capsule to float into the surrounding waters."

U.S. Navy divers, in small boats, performed safety checks and attached tending lines onto the Orion to enable recovery, according to Rann.

The test team towed the capsule into the well deck where sailors aboard the Arlington secured the capsule in its onboard recovery cradle, according to Mike Generale, Orion Stationary Recovery Test director.

The test is really the first time that we've worked together with the DOD to recover a capsule, since our last mission in 1975, according to Scott Wilson, NASA's manager of production operations for the Orion program.

"So it's a pretty historic start to this program that we're doing," said Wilson. "We have what we refer to as a crawl, walk, run strategy."

In a statement, Adm. Bill Gortney, U.S. Navy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, welcomed the chance to take part again in recovering NASA astronauts as done nearly half-century ago in support of America's quest to put a man on the moon.

Additionally, Steve Jurczyk, NASA Langley Research Center deputy director gave his thanks for the great work Detachment 3 and the Navy did for including them in the event.

Detachment 3 will continue to support the Orion program through its development and into its crewed operational missions. Orion's next test will be an underway recovery test in January 2014, followed by an unmanned orbital test flight in September 2014.

The launch vehicle will be a Delta IV rocket and be supported by the 45th SW from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Orion is scheduled for an unmanned mission to deep space in 2017. Orion's first manned flight is planned for 2021.