Take a Wild Ride on NASA's Orion Abort Test with This Stunning Video

Wanna fly like Superman? With an incredible new camera view, you can get a rare mid-air perspective and watch a spacecraft streaking through the atmosphere.

The camera hitched a ride on a test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft as it completed a successful abort test, Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2), high above Earth on July 2. NASA hopes to one day use Orion for crewed missions across the solar system, including Artemis missions to the moon and possible future flights to Mars.

A test verision of Orion launches on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test on a Northrop Grumman provided booster on July 2, 2019. (Image credit: NASA)

In full view of the camera, you can see the spacecraft darting away with a huge white contrail following behind it. The striking view also catches the curvature of the Earth and the blazing light of the sun. The camera is mounted on a ring that connects the spacecraft and launch abort system to the rocket. Even after the rocket separated, a motor kept the camera steady for several seconds so engineers could watch the footage of Orion shooting away.

"About 27 seconds after the abort is initiated and the Orion elements separate from the booster, the launch abort system's jettison motor is seen firing, releasing the capsule," NASA said in a statement. "The July 2 test demonstrated the Orion's launch abort system works during high-stress aerodynamic conditions and can pull the capsule to safety if an emergency ever arises during launch,” the agency added.

Orion passed a brief space test in December 2014 and will have a second chance to fly (on a multi-week mission) no earlier than 2020. This uncrewed test mission, called Artemis 1, will pair the spacecraft with the mighty Space Launch System for the rocket’s first flight. Orion will swing around the moon, release CubeSats and then come back to Earth to test its re-entry system. NASA hopes that this mission will prepare themto send astronauts to the lunar south pole by 2024.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace