Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @cosmic_chatter)
Ramin Skibba (@raminskibba)
Alessondra Springmann (@sondy)
Continue reading “Weekly Space Hangout – Dec. 19, 2014: Methane on Mars!”
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.”
After overcoming an early setback that saw a lander crash and burn, Morpheus has been regularly doing free flights and in some cases, getting quite high off the ground (such as this flight last month that went as high as the Great Pyramid). And by the way, if that’s not enough rocket power for you today, there’s a lot more historical video where that flight came from. Check out this link on the Morpheus webpage to scroll back through its past free flights and tethered tests.
If it weren’t for that blue sky and those trees in behind, we’d be convinced that this little robot is landing on Mars. The Morpheus Lander once again proved how hard-core amazing these free flights are, as the automated robot soared 467 feet (142 meters) high Feb. 10 before jaunting sideways and making a bang-on-target landing.
“Today we went as high as the top of Great Pyramid of Giza,” the NASA Morpheus Lander Twitter feed said, adding that the team was enjoying “celebratory brownies” to mark the milestone. You can watch the whole video below (and we dare you not to gape during that sideways maneuver.)
The goal of Morpheus is to figure out landing technologies for other planets at a low cost, and lately the project has hit a series of literal highs as the robot made successful free flight after free flight. An earlier prototype crashed and burned in 2012, but the team implemented redesigns and has not lost a craft since.
On Feb. 14, Morpheus also completed a series of ground “hot fire” tests to gather data on how the engines are performing. On that day, the project’s Twitter feed assured followers that another free flight test would come “very soon.”
The above video should satisfy your daily need for rocket foom. Morpheus — a NASA testbed for vertical landing systems — did two firing tests this week that produced a fair amount of the usual fire and smoke, as you can see above.
You’ll actually see two separate firings in that video. In the first one, the lander strayed out of its safety zone and did a soft abort. The second test, NASA stated, “was a complete success.”
The first lander of the program crashed and burned in a test failure in August 2012, but officials recently praised the program for the progress it has made since then.
“Although a hardware failure led to the loss of the original vehicle last August, the failure and our internal investigation gave us valuable insight into areas that needed improvement,” a Project Morpheus blog post from May stated.
“The vehicle may look largely the same as the previous version, but there are numerous changes that have been incorporated. We have now implemented 70 different upgrades to the vehicle and ground systems to both address potential contributors to the test failure, and also to improve operability and maintainability.”
In the long run, NASA aims to use Morpheus as a “vertical test bed” for environmentally friendly propellants, as well as for automatic advances in landing and hazard detection.
The vehicle is advertised as big enough to land 1,100 pounds of cargo on the moon if it was placed nearby.
Check out more information about the program at the Project Morpheus website.
NASA’s “lean and green” Morpheus lander crashed and burned during a free flight test at Kennedy Space Center today, August 9, at approximately 12:46 pm EDT.
Watch a video of the failed test after the jump:
Designed in-house at Johnson Space Center, the Morpheus lander is engineered to use a liquid oxygen and methane fuel — relatively cheap materials that can be stored easily and would be available resources on other worlds besides Earth.
Morpheus’ first successful tethered flight had just occurred a few days earlier, on August 3.
It IS still rocket science, after all…
Images: NASA TV