(Sen) - NASA's robotic lander Mighty Eagle completed a successful free flight test September 5. The prototype, using its onboard autonomous flight software, moved to an altitude of 100 feet, found its target and descended gently to a controlled landing.
The craft is named after a character from the popular Angry Birds game, and is a test bed for technologies that may be used to build robotic landers for the Moon, asteroids and other destinations in our Solar System.
"The Mighty Eagle had a great flight, fulfilling the objectives we had for this test - finding and landing on its target using a closed-loop system," said Dr Greg Chavers, lead engineer for the project.
Marshall Space Flight Center engineers Logan Kennedy, right, and Adam Lacock check out the lander prototype. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Fred Deaton
After a series of tethered flights during 2011 and 2012, the Mighty Eagle had its first "free" flight on August 8, 2012. That test met with its targets and was followed by further successful untethered flights on August 16 and August 28.
During the August 16 flight, the lander hovered at an altitude of about 30 feet, identified its target landing site 21 feet away, moved sideways and descended safely.The test flight lasted 32 seconds.
On August 28, as shown in the video below, the Mighty Eagle reached an altitude of 100 feet. During the 35-second run the vehicle navigated autonomously.
The Mighty Eagle has three legs and measures 4 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter. The lander is fuelled mainly by pure hydrogen peroxide. It has thrusters to control its landing which are operated by the onboard computer.
The Mighty Eagle is being developed by a team at the Marshall Space Flight Center and by a team at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.