During a free-flight test of the Project Morpheus vehicle at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight. No one was injured and the resulting fire was extinguished by Kennedy fire personnel. Engineers are looking into the test data and the agency will release information as it becomes available. Failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test, and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware.
Testing of the prototype lander had been ongoing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in preparation for its first free-flight test at Kennedy Space Center. Morpheus was manufactured and assembled at JSC and Armadillo Aerospace. Morpheus is large enough to carry 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon – for example, a humanoid robot, a small rover, or a small laboratory to convert moon dust into oxygen. The primary focus of the test is to demonstrate an integrated propulsion and guidance, navigation and control system that can fly a lunar descent profile to exercise the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT, safe landing sensors and closed-loop flight control. For more information on Project Morpheus, visit http://morpheuslander.jsc.nasa.gov/. Photo credit: NASA