NASA's prototype Morpheus lander crashed in a free-flight test on Thursday (Aug. 9, 2012), at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On July 27, the Morpheus Lander arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and conducted a tethered test on Aug. 3.
On Aug. 9, during a free-flight test of the Project Morpheus vehicle at the Shuttle Landing Facility, the vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure. This failure prevented the vehicle from maintaining stable flight. No one was injured, and the resulting fire was extinguished by Kennedy Space Center fire personnel. Failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware.
Morpheus was manufactured and assembled at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Armadillo Aerospace. Testing of the prototype lander had been ongoing at Johnson in preparation for its first free-flight test at Kennedy. For more information on Project Morpheus, visit: http://morpheuslander.jsc.nasa.gov .
Morpheus is a prototype lander that engineers can use to integrate technologies for future spacecraft that could land on a variety of destinations in our solar system. The technologies include a new propulsion system that uses liquid oxygen and methane, two "green" fuels that could be manufactured on other planetary bodies. Morpheus also is testing technology capable of identifying and avoiding surface hazards to enable a safe and accurate landing anywhere on a planetary surface and under any lighting conditions.
Morpheus is one of 20 projects comprising the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) program in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. AES projects pioneer new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating capabilities and validating concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.
The lander underwent testing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for almost a year in preparation for its first free flight at Kennedy. Once Morpheus had performed several successful free flights there, it was to fly about a half a mile -long approach that simulates avoiding hazards in a landing field. Teams have spent the last two months creating a hazard field of craters and rocks at the end of the runway of Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).
Repurposing the SLF for Morpheus testing is one of many projects under way at Kennedy. Across the space center, teams are preparing for the next generation of launch vehicles and spacecraft. The preparations include upgrading launch pads and the space shuttle crawler transporter, and modifying and refurbishing the Vehicle Assembly Building.
For more information about Project Morpheus and videos of past tests visit: http://go.nasa.gov/OmxmBP
For more information about NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems projects, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/OjU0fQ
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