Morpheus lander launches from Kennedy Space Center


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The last planned free flight test of the Morpheus lander at Kennedy Space Center launched on Wednesday evening.

Wednesday's 9:30 p.m. launch marked the 14th time crews have tested the prototype lander they hope to one day land on the moon or an asteroid.

The launch was also the first night launch test.

Official hope the vehicle's ALHAT sensors – short for Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology — steer it to the best landing site, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.

Ten previous free flights since November had followed a pre-set trajectory relying on the Morpheus' own GPS-based guidance system. Last week's flight used the sensors but as Morpheus approached the landing site, the vehicle resumed control.

The Morpheus and ALHAT projects are simulating landings on another planet in an effort to advance technologies, including the autonomous landing system and a rocket engine powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen.