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NASA celebrates Orion capsule test ahead of moon mission

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on July 2, 2019 - Duration: 01:08s

NASA celebrates Orion capsule test ahead of moon mission

NASA on Tuesday, successfully conducted a test of the abort thrusters on an Orion spacecraft ahead of the agency's mission to return humans to the moon by 2024.

Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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NASA celebrates Orion capsule test ahead of moon mission

A full-scale NASA crew capsule blasted off from a Florida launch pad Tuesday (July 2) morning in mission to test the spacecraft's abort thrusters, a key astronaut safety benchmark ahead of NASA's hastened goal to return humans to the moon by 2024.

The unmanned Orion crew capsule, nearly identical to the model slated to carry astronauts as soon as 2022 atop NASA's Space Launch System, was lofted atop a ballistic missile test booster six miles in the sky from an Air Force station in Florida at 7 a.m.

EST before firing its three abort thrusters, which jettison the pod to safety in the event of a rocket failure.

Using Orion and NASA's Space Launch System in development, the U.S. space agency is aiming to return humans to the moon by 2024 in an accelerated timeline announced in March by the Trump administration.

No humans have launched from U.S. soil since the the space agency's shuttle program retired in 2011.

The 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle used in Tuesday's abort simulation plunged in the ocean at speeds of 300 miles per hour after separating from the booster, unlike an actual scenario where the pod would slow its return by deploying parachutes for a safe landing for the crew inside.

Launch abort thrusters, used only during a rocket failure in flight, are expected to be rarely needed.

A two-person crew inside Russia's Soyuz capsule, used by the U.S. to launch its astronauts to the International Space Station, was forced last year to execute its abort system 31 miles in the air and safely send the crew back to land when its rocket malfunctioned during the ascent to space, marking the first mishap of its kind in over 30 years for the launch system.

NASA has contracted Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing Co.

To build separate crew capsule systems capable of carrying astronauts to the space station.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule exploded on a test stand in April just before engineers test fired its abort engines, triggering an investigation that could delay the pod's first crewed flight by several months.

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