NASA tests prototype robotic planetary lander

The latest flight test of NASA’s experimental Project Morpheus lander was carried out last week.


The craft is an autonomous, rocket-powered vertical take-off and landing testbed that NASA is using to trial a variety of lander technologies.

The space agency believes it could pave the way for craft that could land humanoid robots, rovers or propellant labs on the Moon or other planets, or rendezvous with asteroids.

The lander, developed at the Johnson Space Center, is propelled by a liquid oxygen (LOX)/liquid methane propulsion system that can provide a specific impulse of up to 321 seconds during space flight.

The latest flight of the second Morpheus prototype model, known as ’Bravo, demonstrated its Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology Hazard Detection System (ALHAT HDS).

It identified a safe area 1.4m from its take-off point and the targeted the landing site (although the actual flight navigation route was pre-planned).