NASA’s Project Morpheus completes Free Flight 8

NASA is testing its planetary lander at the Kennedy Space Center.

Last week the Morpheus Team performed another field test for their Morpheus lander at the Kennedy Space Center. Morpheus is one of NASA’s most interesting development projects, designed as a planetary lander to perform vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) missions.

Morpheus uses methane and liquid oxygen for its fuel, able to burn for 1134 seconds. The vehicle should be able to carry 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon from a spacecraft, if NASA decides to make another trip.

The flight test also checked progress of the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT), allowing the vehicle to find a safe landing site. A flat surface is preferred, free of both protrusions and extrusions from the ground.

Project Morpheus’ latest blog discusses the roles and responsibilities for the different test team members, and gives a little insight into the intensity of a test day. The massive amounts of time, effort and money that go into pre and post launch activities is not discussed.

Each test for the lander pushes a little farther. Maximum height is raised, complexity is introduced to the flight path adding turns, and different obstacles can be added to the makeshift moon surface for ALHAT to avoid while landing.

NASA treats Morpheus as a test laboratory, allowing them to bring new technologies into the lander and perform flight tests at a low cost. The vehicle isn’t the only thing being tested when these jumps are made. This idea is allowing NASA to further their goal of extending human presence across the solar system, developing new technologies for their spacecraft in both large and small scales.

The Morpheus project is awesome. Not just because NASA is developing a new moon lander, but because it is being developed for any planetary surface. Theoretically the vehicle could be launched from a ship to either mine or destroy an asteroid. A remote laboratory could be flown to a planet’s surface, refueling or emergency operations could be aided, and robots can be deployed from Morpheus.