Orion capsule


By Dario Leone
Feb 27 2017
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Orion Capsule recovery systems testing

Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard‘s 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 to participate in a joint NASA/Department of Defense mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA‘s Orion spacecraft.

According to the article Guardsmen to Test Space Capsule Recovery Systems, written by Eric Durr from New York Air National Guard, the team of forty-five Airmen is made up of pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) specialists and other support Airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Westhampton Beach, Long Island.

Pararescuemen are trained to rescue downed aviators behind enemy lines and from land and water environments. Each pararescue Airman undergoes two-years of training that includes extensive medical training as well as training in parachute jumping, scuba diving, and survival skills.

The pararescuemen are experienced in dropping fully stocked rescue boats to recover personnel.

The New York National Guard Airmen will work with experts from NASA, Air Force test and evaluation experts, and the Department of Defense Human Spaceflight Support Office in developing techniques for airdropping gear needed to recover the crew from an Orion crew module and outfit the floating spacecraft with special equipment.

The New York National Guard pararescuemen will conduct airdrops and practice helping astronauts out of the spacecraft, and provide medical assistance if necessary. The jumps will help NASA and the military test a number of systems and procedures.

While the 106th Airmen will be testing recovery equipment, they will not be working with an actual or simulated Orion capsule.

This is not the first time the New York Air National Guard has been involved in a spacecraft recovery mission.

Rescue support package for Space Shuttle missions

The 106th Rescue Wing provided a rescue support package at Patrick Air Force Base (AFB), which is located near the Kennedy Space Center, for 109 of those Space Shuttle missions. The mission of the 106th Airmen was to rescue astronauts who were forced to abandon their spacecraft during the launch sequence.


“We are pleased to be partnering once again with NASA and the Department of Defense on manned space travel. This exercise is one of many steps the 106th will take to ensure the successful recovery of our nation’s astronauts should the need arise. This will further demonstrate the versatility and tremendous capability the Airmen of the 106th possess,” said Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing.

“The personnel of the 106th Rescue Wing are professionals who have proven themselves in both combat and here at home,” said Major General Anthony German, the Adjutant General of New York. “We’re pleased that they can lend their expertise as NASA plans for the continued exploration of space.”

Orion is designed to take Americans back into deep space and ultimately on a journey to Mars, according to NASA.

A larger version of the Apollo space capsule

The spacecraft resembles a larger version of the Apollo space capsule which took men to the moon in the 1960s and 70s. Like the Apollo command module, the Orion spacecraft is designed to ‘splashdown” in the ocean instead of landing on a runway like the Space Shuttles, which flew 135 times between 1981 and 2011.

An unmanned Orion flew in 2014 on Exploration Flight Test-1. The next launch of an Orion spacecraft is targeted for the fall of 2018 on Exploration Mission-1, which will be the first integrated flight test of an Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket.

The deployment of the 106th personnel is part of the Sentry Aloha series of air operations exercises hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard each year.

NASA’s objectives for the mission are to:

  • test the best way to mark the spacecraft’s location in the water;
  • test configurations for airdropping recovery equipment;
  • practice the inflation of a “Front Porch” which would be used by astronauts exiting the spacecraft; test the stabilization collar which will be placed on the Orion capsule before recovery;
  • And test storage capacity for equipment on land.

Photo credit: NASA

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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