The Mighty Eagle, a NASA robotic prototype lander managed out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., successfully completed an autonomous, free flight test today to help validate software from Moon Express, Inc. The test flight was the last in series of progressive tests of the company’s flight software being conducted in collaboration with the Marshall Center.
Under the terms of a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed with Moon Express, the Marshall Center provided its Mighty Eagle lander test vehicle and engineering team in support of a series of test flights to help validate the company’s Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) flight software. Guidance algorithms developed by Moon Express were integrated into the existing software on-board the Mighty Eagle and used to perform the flight test series. This type of software is designed to tell the vehicle where to go and how to get there. In return, Moon Express is reimbursing Marshall for the cost of providing the test vehicle and technical support.
"We are really excited to conclude this test series with such a great flight," said Jason Adam, flight manager for the Mighty Eagle at the Marshall Center. "Working with Moon Express to help test their new software is a great example of the types of partnerships NASA is looking to build. By utilizing agency resources and expertise, we can gather data that can also help advance the commercial sector."
NASA will use the Mighty Eagle and its larger counterpart, the Project Morpheus prototype lander, to mature the technology needed to develop a new generation of small, smart and versatile robotic landers capable of achieving scientific and exploration goals on the surface of planetary bodies.
"Today's successful free flight test on the NASA Mighty Eagle brings us closer to the moon," said Bob Richards, Moon Express co-founder and chief executive officer. "We thank NASA and the Mighty Eagle team for their support and collaboration as we advance our capabilities in lander technology."
The Mighty Eagle prototype lander was developed by the Marshall Center and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., for NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division, Headquarters Science Mission Directorate. Key partners in this project include the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, which includes the Science Applications International Corporation, Dynetics Corp. and Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc., all of Huntsville.
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