Morpheus prototype uses hazard detection system to land safely in dark (w/ Video)

Jun 01, 2014
Credit: NASA/Mike Chambers

NASA demonstrated that it can land an unmanned spacecraft on a rugged planetary surface in the pitch dark in a May 28, 2014 free-flight test of the Morpheus prototype lander and Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT.

The 98-second test began at 10:02 p.m. EDT, with the Morpheus lander launching from the ground over a flame trench and ascending more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at Kennedy Space Center using only ALHAT's Hazard Detection System for guidance.

The Hazard Detection System, assisted by three light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, located obstacles—such as rocks and craters—and safely landed on the lunar-like hazard field a quarter mile away from the NASA Center.

Project Morpheus tests NASA's ALHAT and an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, which are green propellants. These new capabilities could be used in future efforts to deliver cargo to planetary surfaces. The landing facility provides the lander with the kind of field necessary for realistic testing, complete with rocks, craters and hazards to avoid. Morpheus' ALHAT payload allows it to navigate to clear landing sites amidst rocks, craters and other hazards during its descent.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Project Morpheus is being managed under the Advanced Exploration Systems, or AES, Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The efforts in AES pioneer new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.

Explore further: Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology ensures safe landing for Morpheus

Related Stories

Morpheus project lander roars in free flight test

Dec 12, 2013

What an otherworldly experience, without having to leave Earth! The Morpheus Project wrapped up a successful free-flight test yesterday. That picture above is just to whet your appetite for the actual video, ...

NASA's 'green' planetary test lander crashes

Aug 09, 2012

Earlier this week NASA safely landed a robotic rover on Mars 350 million miles (563 million kilometers) away. But on Thursday here on Earth, a test model planetary lander crashed and burned at Kennedy Space ...

Recommended for you

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

17 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

Mar 30, 2015

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

Mar 30, 2015

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.