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Lockheed Martin Orion Spacecraft Completes Successful Test

FILE - A full moon in Washington. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Aerospace company Lockheed Martin says it has successfully completed a crucial test of the Orion spacecraft it is building for the NASA space agency to eventually return astronauts to the moon.

The company released video Thursday of its most recent test conducted earlier this month at the company's Waterton Canyon facility near Littleton, Colorado.

After takeoff, the Orion must jettison three large service module coverings, known as fairings, designed to protect the spacecraft during the launch. The fairings must come off to lighten the load so the craft can reach space.

Lockheed Martin said the test was successful and validated the jettison mechanisms, and will help the company as it builds new versions of the Orion.

NASA hopes to launch the Space Launch System on its first test flight as early as 2021. The agency’s mission to the moon is scheduled for 2024, the first since 1972.