Headlines > News > ALHAT Ensures Safe Landing for Morpheus

ALHAT Ensures Safe Landing for Morpheus

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri May 2, 2014 8:27 am via: NASA
Share
More share options
Tools
Tags

NASA’s Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) project recently completed its third free-flight test on the Morpheus prototype lander April 30, demonstrating its ability to navigate and determine safe landing sites on planetary surfaces.

Led by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and supported by Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., ALHAT technology will provide planetary landers similar to Morpheus the ability to precisely and safely land on rugged surfaces by detecting dangerous hazards such as rocks, holes and slopes.

Technicians vent MORPHEUS prototype propellant lines after a successful free-flight test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle, with its recently installed autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT, sensors surveyed the hazard field to determine safe landing. Image Credit: NASA

Technicians vent MORPHEUS prototype propellant lines after a successful free-flight test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle, with its recently installed autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT, sensors surveyed the hazard field to determine safe landing. Image Credit: NASA

During the 94-second test, the Morpheus vehicle took off in a cloud of dust from its launch pad just off the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It ascended to more than 800 feet and then began its powered descent toward the ALHAT hazard field approximately 1,300 feet downrange.

During descent, Morpheus flew a route similar to that of an actual lunar lander while actively making measurements with ALHAT’s three Light Detecting and Ranging, or lidar, sensors: the flash lidar, Doppler lidar and high-altitude laser altimeter.

The first sensor, the flash lidar, created an elevation map of the hazard field to identify the location of rock piles and craters. The second sensor, the Doppler lidar, was used to provide Morpheus with range and velocity data of its position relative to the landing surface. Lastly, the high-altitude laser altimeter provided altitude measurements that helped the vehicle initially locate the surface and land safely.

“During the last free flight test, the ALHAT sensors provided some of the best measurements yet, and the vehicle landed at the location that the ALHAT Hazard Detection System selected, which was another first for the system,” said Langley engineer Kevin Kempton.

Testing will resume in May, when ALHAT will forgo the help of Morpheus’ navigation by using only the measurements of the sensors to land the vehicle on the hazard field.

Since all three sensors use lasers, they can provide measurements in all lighting conditions, thus making it a technology capable of landing a vehicle in total darkness.

A technician vents off the gas from the propellant lines of NASA's Project Morpheus prototype lander after it completed a free-flight test at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA

A technician vents off the gas from the propellant lines of NASA's Project Morpheus prototype lander after it completed a free-flight test at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA

Kempton predicts that in future test flights, ALHAT will fly at night, demonstrating the full potential of the three sensors.

“A successful demonstration will open the gate for ALHAT technologies to be used on the next set of lander missions,” Kempton said.

The Advanced Exploration Systems Division of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate manages ALHAT and Morpheus. Advanced Exploration Systems pioneers new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use