The USCG Cutter Maple tends to NASA’s Orion crew module, during a drill to test the spacecraft’s ability to self-right in the event of a rough water landing. (USCG photo)

Almost two years after leaving Sitka on an historic 8,000-mile voyage through the Northwest Passage, the USCG Cutter Maple returned to duty with a splash this spring at its new homeport in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The ship assisted NASA in a test of its Orion spacecraft. In March, a 47′ motor lifeboat from USCG Station Fort Macon towed a full-scale replica of the Orion crew module offshore, where it was flipped by the crane aboard the Maple. Once inverted, a series of inflatable bags called the Crew Module Uprighting System (CMUS) deployed and reoriented the module.

The crew of the Maple offloads the Orion Crew Module at the pier at Atlantic Beach, NC. (USCG photo)

The Maple, a 225′ buoy tender, completed a full refit at the US Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore late last year. It’s the fourth of the 225’s to undergo a mid-life makeover, officially called ISVS, or In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program. The previous vessel to receive the refit was the USCG Cutter Kukui, which arrived in Sitka last June to replace the Maple.