NASA is putting the Orion spacecraft through its paces as it pushes hard to make an ambitious 2024 deadline for returning astronauts to the moon. The latest advancement was a successful abort-to-orbit propulsion test that's a thrill for fans of fierce, loud engines.
NASA released a video showing the exercise, which took place on Monday at the agency's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. This was a stationary test, so nothing launched into the air.
The test was practice for a scenario where things go wrong if the spacecraft isn't able to get on the proper path toward the moon. The abort-to-orbit test simulates how the service module section of Orion would instead take the crew into a temporary orbit around the Earth.
"That would allow time to evaluate the crew and spacecraft before a decision is made to either continue with an alternate mission profile, or return to Earth," NASA said in a release on Tuesday.
Engineers fired up the Orion service module's main engine and eight auxiliary engines. The team also activated the module's smaller thrusters throughout the test.
The service module is responsible for maneuvering Orion in space and providing the life support system for the crew capsule where the astronauts will be.
Orion has logged some successes lately, including a, but the .
NASA is still hopeful it will be able to first launch an uncrewed Orion trip around the moon, followed by a crewed mission, on a tight schedule.
If everything goes right, the first woman and next man could reach the moon in 2024, but space missions have a knack for hitting speed bumps. This latest Orion test is a welcome bit of smoothing sailing for Artemis.