Julian Leek and Mary Kanian report on how cranes are assisting with astronaut rescue training

As part of the plan to return to launching astronauts from American soil, Boeing is reaching “back to the future,” and everything old is new again as Boeing begins testing crew capsules for recovery from land and ocean.

Initially, training began off the Army Wharf at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with equipment from Beyel Crane & Rigging using a 200-ton Link-Belt 248 to place the rescue boats, and Boeing’s 15-foot diameter CST-100 Starliner training capsule into the waters off Port Canaveral.

Unlike earlier U.S. space capsules, the CST-100 will make airbag-cushioned landings on the ground rather than into water. The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, along with the Defense Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office Rescue Division, were involved in this training, which was designed as a rescue operation in the unlikely event of an emergency during ascent, free flight or water landing. After this part of the training operation was completed, the spacecraft capsule was lowered onto the deck of the 175-foot ocean-going barge known as Ella Beyel. The barge was then rigged with a deck-mounted Kobelco CK 1000 II crawler headed out of Port Canaveral and into the Atlantic Ocean to repeat the recovery operation in real time sea conditions. No astronauts were involved in this part of the training exercise.

Ground and water training

The HSFS teams have supported all NASA human spaceflight programs and will be on standby for both NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Orion launches and landings. This multi-day exercise consists of ground and water- based training to prepare the Department of Defense para-rescue team for an emergency situation on ascent. The HSFS teams will rehearse locating the Starliner spacecraft, sending out rescue teams to extract DoD team members, acting in the role of astronauts, from the capsule and providing immediate medical treatment.

A multitude of cranes, barges and watercraft from various companies operate in and around Patrick Air Force Base, Port Canaveral, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Kennedy Space Center and Brevard County in support of the U.S.

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