NASA’s Project Morpheus nailed it again today with yet another successful free flight of their prototype lander, soaring higher, faster, and farther than ever before! Go Morpheus!
The FF9 test, which occurred at 3:41 p.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center, saw the 2,300-lb (1000-kg) Morpheus craft rise to a height of 580 feet (177 meters) and travel 837 feet (255 m) downrange at 30 mph (48 km/h). After the 85-second flight the craft set down almost exactly on target — only about a foot (.3 m) off.
During today’s test flight the oxygen-and-methane-propelled Morpheus could have cleared the Washington Monument.
The next step is to integrate the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) sensors, which allow the craft to identify dangerous terrain and determine the best route to a safe landing — all by itself. This capability will be invaluable for future landings on unexplored surfaces on the Moon and Mars.
“It’s never been done,” said Dr. Jon Olansen, project manager of the Morpheus Project, in 2012. “We’ve never landed of the moon or Mars with real-time hazard detection and avoidance. Most of the Mars missions use air bags. They go where they go, they roll them and they stop… whatever comes, comes.”
And we have a big foom and a big flight! The Morpheus prototype lander, which is intended to see how well automated technologies would work to fly spacecraft and land them on other planets, finished up its latest free-flight test yesterday. You can see the results in the latest video above, and we have a link to past videos below the jump.
The robot soared 467 feet high (142 meters) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before doing a planned sideways move that brought it 637 feet (194 m) in 36 seconds. It also did a mid-course correction to avoid a planned obstacle before touching down about 10 inches from its target. The flight lasted 79 seconds in all.
“Initial data indicates a nominal flight meeting all test objectives,” the team stated on its YouTube video. “The Morpheus Team again demonstrated engineering and operational excellence, relying upon training, discipline and experience to ensure today’s success.”