Morpheus, NASA’s vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle, conducted its first successful free flight at the Kennedy Space Center in the early afternoon on December 10, 2013, according to Space Coast Daily.
“During today’s test, Morpheus ascended about 50 feet from the ground over the flame trench, hovered for about 15 seconds, then flew forward and landed on its pad positioned about 23 feet from the launch point.”
Morpheus, which is operated by a team from NASA’s is testing two new technologies, a methane/oxygen engine and an automated landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT). The ALHAT will allow future landers to touch down on the surfaces of other worlds, such as the moon or Mars, which are strewn with boulders, craters, and other hazards.
A previous model of the Morpheus crashed and burned during a free flight test at KSC in August, 2012. So the success at conducting a free flight of the vehicle is a major milestone for its test program. The free flight test was the first of several such tests using a simulated landscape at the Kennedy Space Center.