KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., 20 Dec. 2013. NASA engineers conducted a free-flight test of the Morpheus prototype lander this week at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 81-second test began at 1:37 p.m. EST on 17 Dec. 2013 at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility. The Morpheus lander launched from the ground over a flame trench and ascended roughly 164 feet, after pausing briefly at 82 feet. The lander then flew forward, covering approximately 15 feet in 30 seconds before descending and landing on a dedicated landing pad inside the autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) hazard field. Morpheus landed within 3.5 inches of its target.
This free-flight test marked the second test of the Morpheus lander; during a similar test in August 2012, the prototype lander burst into flames.
NASA’s Morpheus lander is considered a novel interplanetary vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) spacecraft that employs electronics sourced from several aerospace and defense industry veterans. Aitech, a supplier of rugged computer systems for harsh environments in Chatsworth, Calif., provided the Aitech S950 CompactPCI board with a PowerPC 750 processor that serves as the Morpheus lander’s main computer, able to store up to 16 gigabytes (GB) of data and sporting RS-422, RS-232, Ethernet, and MIL-STD-1553 data buses.