Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter
Project Morpheus ran a series of hot fire tests yesterday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Morpheus is a prototype launch vehicle for the lunar surface, an outgrowth of Project M, which was at first a rather “secretive” project, designed to land a Robonaut on the Moon. The Morpheus lander is a larger version of the Pixel landing craft developed by Armadillo Aerospace during a cooperative effort with the engineers from Project M. The rocket engine burns methane and oxygen and is pressurized with helium.
The Project Morpheus website describes the effort as “a vertical test bed demonstrating new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. Designed, developed, manufactured and operated in-house by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Morpheus Project represents not only a vehicle to advance technologies, but also an opportunity to try out ‘lean development’ engineering practices.”
The tests were designed for five hot firings in a row. If after review they are all deemed successful, an active flight control system will be installed and more firings will occur later this year where the craft will guide and land itself.
Matt Ondler, Project M project manager, said that Project M was conceived in 2009 at the Engineering Directorate at the Johnson Space Center after a couple of cooperative efforts — with GM, where they worked jointly to build Robonaut, and also working with Armadillo Aerospace.
Plus, the canceling of the Constellation project contributed to this group of engineers starting Project M.
After the Augustine Commission report, “It was clear we were going to lose the manned moon mission,” Ondler said. “It couldn’t be afforded as currently imagined and 2028 was the new date. That is too many Presidential administrations in the future to be relevant or meaningful. Orion was still six years away at least. We knew even then Constellation was going to change. We never expected Orion to go, but the launch vehicle was clearly out of favor and change was coming. We were frustrated. We saw what we had built and accomplished in the Engineering Directorate at JSC and knew we could do better. The talent was there; we just needed to unleash it.”
Project Morpheus is allowing them to give free rein to their rocket-fired creativity.