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KSC Supports Morpheus Flight Test

The KSC team successfully supported engineers from Johnson Space Center and other NASA centers on the Morpheus/Autonomous Landing and Hazard Technology (ALHAT) Project.  Morpheus is an autonomous, reusable, rocket-powered, terrestrial vertical take-off/vertical landing vehicle designed by NASA to test technologies for integrated spacecraft and planetary landers.  Flight tests for Morpheus were conducted at a KSC site near the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility.  This site was designed and built by KSC personnel and was modeled after a southern pole region of the Moon, featuring boulders, rocks, slopes and craters made almost entirely of recycled materials.  In support of the flight tests, the KSC team:

  • Repurposed a Liquid Oxygen tanker and created a new capability to support methane propellant operations
  • Designed, engineered and constructed a concrete mobile launch pad
  • Designed, engineered and constructed a steel launch/landing pad
  • Assisted in mitigating the severe vibra-acoustic launch environment by constructing a steel flame trench
  • Stood up both a mobile and stand-alone command & control capability
  • Provided imagery support for all test flights

According to Greg Gaddis, a NASA Test Director and the KSC Morpheus/ALHAT Site Manager, "the Morpheus Project demonstrated KSC’s broad capabilities, and the ability of the team to meet tough challenges from both an engineering and operations standpoint." 

During the 3-year project, the KSC team supported two hot fire Reaction Control System tests, five tethered Morpheus flights tests, and 15 free flight tests, one of which was a nighttime flight. 

In addition to personnel from KSC and JSC, the Morpheus/ALHAT project involved contributions from six other NASA centers, including Stennis Space Center, Goddard Spaceflight Center, Marshall Spaceflight Center, Glenn Research Center, Langley Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab. Personnel from numerous commercial and academic entities also contributed.

The goal of the Morpheus project is to develop and test technologies that increase autonomy, reliability, safety and re-usability of planetary landing vehicles, and which improve navigation and landing capabilities. The advancements that result are aimed at enabling access to planetary landing sites that were previously considered too hazardous for robotic lander mission, or a human mission.

 

Check out this cool video of testing at KSC!

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