A free flight test of a Morpheus prototype lander was conducted on March 11, 2014 at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The 83-second test began at 3:41 p.m. EDT with the Morpheus lander launching from the ground over a flame trench. It ascended to 580 feet, its highest to date — higher than the Washington Monument — at a rate of 30 mph, its fastest ascent speed yet. Morpheus then flew its fastest downrange trek at 30 mph, travelling farther than before, 837 feet. The lander performed a 42-foot divert to emulate a hazard avoidance maneuver before descending and touching down on Landing Site 2, a the northern landing pad inside the automated landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) hazard field. Morpheus touched down about one foot from its intended target.
Project Morpheus tests NASA’s automated landing and hazard avoidance technology and an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, or “green” propellants. These new capabilities could be used in future efforts to deliver cargo to planetary surfaces. Morpheus and ALHAT are examples of the partnerships that exist within the agency since seven of the 10 NASA centers have contributed time, energy and resources to both.