KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – NASA’s project Morpheus lander has exploded during a free flight test Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center.
Morpheus is fueled by liquid oxygen and methane — two fuels that could someday be extracted from materials found on the moon and mars.
During the test, the capsule tipped over and crashed, caught fire and exploded around 12:40 p.m.
“[The] vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight,” said NASA spokeswoman Laurel Lichtenberger. “No one was injured, and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel.”
Morpheus is a NASA-designed vehicle large enough to carry 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon.
The lander had been put through testing for a year, and had previously completed a successful tether test at KSC a week earlier.
“Engineers are looking into the incident, and the agency will release information as it comes available,” said Lichtenberger.
According to NASA’s Project Morpheus blog:
“The Morpheus team successfully flew our first tether test at Kennedy Space Center on Friday August 3rd. The objectives for this flight, along with the dry and wet runs earlier in the week, were to verify all systems were in good working order after shipping from Johnson Space Center in July and to allow the new KSC support team an opportunity to move through flight procedures. After looking over the data over the weekend and coming together for a Test Readiness Review, our Project Manager, Jon Olansen, approved our first ever free flight for August 7th. This will be the first time we will fly the vehicle without a crane attached. The crane was used in previous tests as a safety mechanism to allow each subsystem to safely tune their individual systems for a smooth stable flight.”