Pararescue train for astronaut emergency water landing in Starliner spaceship

Air Force simulates emergency rescue at Port Canaveral, Atlantic Ocean

By James Sparvero - Reporter

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - If NASA's Commercial Crew astronauts make an emergency water landing, the Air Force will be there.

Members of the Air Force pararescue team are training this week in the port channel and in the ocean in the event a rescue is needed.

The Air Force said astronauts would be rescued within 15 minutes of splashdown.

"It's very significant, very important that the crew knows that there's a rescue capability and a force that's been trained and prepared," Maj. Marcus Marism of Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationm said.

The preparations for rescuing crewed flights are similar to the early days of spaceflight.

"We're using a lot of the lessons learned from those guys, and (we) try to develop it and update the equipment," combat rescue officer Capt. Paul Fry said.

During the upcoming launches of the Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, rescuers at Patrick Air Force Base will be on alert.

U.S. Air Force officials said training helps to build a working relationship with the astronauts who might need them to save their lives.

"There's a relationship that's developed over months of training here and at Johnson Space Center where we interact with the astronauts on a regular basis, so very, very connected," Maris said.

Until last weekend's accident with the SpaceX capsule, the Starliner appeared to be a distant second place in a race to return astronauts to space from Florida's Space Coast.

Now, the race seems more competitive.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance are planning to launch Starliner to the space station in August on a test flight without crew. Astronauts could launch on Starliner as soon as November, according to NASA's most recent timeline.

There's no official word from SpaceX if Dragon's crewed flight will be delayed from July.


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