The U.S. space agency NASA has successfully tested the Orion spacecraft's launch abort system, designed to save crew members should an emergency occur during a launch.
A test version of the Orion crew module blasted off from the Space Launch Complex at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Tuesday.
During the approximately three-minute test flight, called Ascent Abort-2, the test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of nearly 10 kilometers, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent.
The abort sequence triggered, and the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA officials say the successful test shows the abort system can quickly steer the crew module and the astronauts inside to safety in a crisis situation even during the most critical point in a launch sequence.
The Orion space craft, built by Lockheed Martin, is NASA's next-generation spacecraft, designed for long-duration, human deep space exploration.