Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and Lockheed Martin Space Operations in Denver, CO, prepared unique hardware that was used in a fit check of equipment that will recover Orion upon splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

After traveling 3,600 miles above the Earth for its Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in September 2014, Orion will splash down for a landing in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered with the help of the United States Navy. A test of the recovery equipment and procedures will take place in August at the Naval Station Norfolk port facility in Norfolk, VA. To be ready for that test, a fit check of the hardware was conducted at the “Trim Pad” near Langley.

The boilerplate test article (BTA) originally was used for water impact testing at Langley’s hydro impact basin for the Orion Structural Passive Landing Attenuation for Survivability of Human-crew (SPLASH) project. Langley redesigned, analyzed, and modified the BTA to simulate the EFT-1 crew module’s mass properties and improve its water resistance for recovery operations.

The one-of-a-kind handling fixture assembly was developed at Kennedy’s Prototype Laboratory and manufactured at the center’s Launch Equipment Test Facility by several Engineering Services contractors. It is the first piece of landing and recovery hardware to be completed and delivered to Langley in May.

Essentially, the handling fixture is a steel beam frame about 17 feet wide and 19 feet long. The fixture has a bolt-on bumper assembly with cushions, or bumpers, that float up and down on guide rails. The assembly frame and bumper will be used to guide the Orion test article into the proper orientation over the handling fixture.