At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, smoke fills the air as the Project Morpheus prototype lander’s engine fires during a tether test at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility. During the test, the lander was lifted 20 feet by crane, and then ascended another 10 feet, maneuvered backwards 10 feet, and then flew forward. It will descend to its original position, landing at the end of the tether onto a transportable launch platform. Testing of the prototype lander was performed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in preparation for tethered and free flight testing at Kennedy.
The landing facility will provide the lander with the kind of field necessary for realistic testing, complete with rocks, craters and hazards to avoid. Morpheus utilizes an autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT, payload that will allow it to navigate to clear landing sites amidst rocks, craters and other hazards during its descent. Project Morpheus is being managed under the Advanced Exploration Systems, or AES, Division in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The efforts in AES pioneer new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit. For more information on Project Morpheus, visit http://morpheuslander.jsc.nasa.gov. Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper