Wed, Aug 15, 2012
Prototype Lander Destroyed In Untethered Test Flight
The second untethered test flight of the Morpheus lander being developed by NASA and did not exactly go as planned, but the lost of control of the vehicle and its subsequent impact with the ground and fire were not entirely unexpected by the development team.
"This is why we test," NASA posted on a blog for the program. "We have already learned a lot from this test, and will continue to learn as we recover data and evaluate the hardware."
NASA said that while the root cause of the accident is still being looked into, they did say that data from the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that supplies navigation updates to the flight computer was lost at the start of the vehicle's ascent. The IMU tells the vehicle which way is up (along with other directional information) and the loss of that data caused Morpheus to tumble and impact the ground about 50 feet from its launch site.
"These types of incidents are expected during hardware development," NASA said on the blog. They cited long testing periods associated with the manned lunar landing and shuttle programs, and that there were failures during both. But in each case "(b)oth of those Programs found the problem, implemented a solution, and moved on to be extremely successful. We will do the same."
A second Morpheus test vehicle is already being constructed, and NASA says the program will continue at KSC "as soon as possible" with unit B.
(Image of Morpheus lander after crash and fire provided by NASA)
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