NASA’s Morpheus Prototype Planetary Lander Making Comeback After Crash

By Mark Carreau
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

The methane-fueled RCS addition is one of 70 upgrades to the second test vehicle following the crash.

In the 2012 mishap, the lander lost IMU data less than a second after lifting off on an early unrestrained flight test at Kennedy. It crashed 8 sec. later. The single IMU had flown on 27 previous test flights without an issue. Though much of the vehicle was destroyed, making the forensics difficult, the project team reached a consensus on the most likely cause: destructive vibro-acoustics from the main engine at ignition.

Morpheus is now equipped with four IMUs, and all of the devices have been moved outboard from the previous location at the center of the lander. Two are designed for functional redundancy. The others will be flown as data-generating developmental hardware.

At Johnson, a flame trench was added at the test site before post-crash static and tethered firings resumed with the replacement lander in April. Meanwhile, the Morpheus project is assembling a third flight-test vehicle.


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