NASA Morpheus to conduct free flight autonomous landing test

NASA has been working on its Morpheus lander for a while with various systems having already undergone testing. The space agency is now set to conduct one of the most important tests for the Morpheus lander yet, free flight with an autonomous landing. NASA says that there will be no crew present during this test.

For the test NASA has set up a 65-yard square that is covered with hazards the size of boulders. Morpheus and its onboard computer systems will have a total of ten seconds to find a clear spot and land. NASA says that it will take the computer systems four seconds to map the area, leaving only six seconds for the lander to get into position and put down.

Morpheus has computer systems onboard that weigh 400 pounds called ALHAT. ALHAT is an acronym for Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology. If this test is successful, a pair of additional flights will be conducted. Assuming the additional flights are successful as well, the sensor package used in testing could find its way into future spacecraft heading to other planets.

Morpheus is a lander that is 10-feet in diameter and weighs in at 2400 pounds. The lander has a frame with four legs and a quartet of spheres inside its frame hold propellant. Propellant is sent through a single nozzle that provides 5300 pounds of thrust. Morpheus uses methane and oxygen as fuel. Engineers on the program point out that the sensors in the ALHAT system worked as they were supposed to in a previous free flight test and are expected to perform as planned this time out.

Source: NASA