Watch Live As NASA Drops 7-Ton Orion Spacecraft Into Huge Pool in Water Impact Test

NASA will be showing live footage of its Orion spacecraft water drop test on Tuesday afternoon.

At 1:45 p.m. EDT, the space agency will hold a 7-ton test version of the Orion capsule over a huge pool before releasing it to see how it copes with the impact.

The idea is to see how the spacecraft might behave when it splashes down in the ocean for real after future missions. Orion is scheduled to take astronauts to the Moon as soon as 2024.

A stream of the drop test will be aired on NASA's media outlets including its NASA TV stream below, so tune in before the 1:45 p.m. test time. The test will also be shown on the Orion Facebook page, NASA said.

During the test, the model Orion capsule will be dropped into NASA's Hydro Impact Basin—a pool of water 115 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. It is based at NASA's Langley Research Center.

It is part of a series of drop tests that began on March 23, with NASA seeking to finalize computer models for the Orion capsule's loads and structure before the Artemis II flight test in 2023.

In a statement issued in November 2020, Chris Tarkenton, technical lead, said: "This is less about trying to reduce model uncertainty and more about loading up to design limits, bringing the model higher in elevation and higher in load, not testing to requirements, but testing to extremes."

The drop tests have been ongoing for several years during the development process for Orion as the capsule has gone through various stages of completion. One such test occurred back in 2011 using an early prototype of Orion that weighed 22,000 pounds—significantly more than the most current version.

Since then the capsule has been refined and NASA says the design for today's drop test is based on the final design.

Orion is NASA's new capsule designed to house astronauts in future missions. The Artemis II flight test will see NASA astronauts get inside the capsule and be launched on a 10-day trip around the Moon in 2023, though the date is uncertain.

After checking that the spacecraft works as it should in space, the crew will return to Earth for a "splashdown" landing in the ocean.

If Artemis II is successful, NASA hopes to launch Artemis III—a mission that will aim to land the first woman and a man on the moon.

Before all that, NASA will launch Artemis 1, which will be an uncrewed mission to circle our moon. It will be launched onboard NASA's huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket perhaps as soon as November this year.

NASA Orion capsule
NASA engineers begin a new series of drop tests for the Orion capsule in this photo dated March 24. NASA