NASA’s Mighty Eagle Robotic Lander Hits the Mark
It seems as though mankind’s continuing efforts at space exploration (even in this time of scarcity) is generating a fair amount of excitement lately. Curiosity was big news and the private sector growth of space exploration has also gotten a boost. All of this is to the good, in this humble writer’s opinion. Excitement draws students to science, ensuring the next round of development and breakthrough further down the road.
NASA’s newest achievement is the successful test flight of its autonomous robotic lander named the Mighty Eagle. The new lander is part of a program to develop affordable landing systems for all manner of space exploration, including trips to the moon, asteroids and other celestial bodies.
Mighty Eagle runs on 90% pure hydrogen peroxide, earning itself the green label. The lander is 4 ft. tall, 8 ft. in diameter and weighs in at 700 lbs. when fully fueled. The flight was primarily intended to test out the Mighty Eagle’s autonomous rendezvous and capture capabilities. It uses a camera and onboard computer to visually navigate to a specified landing target.
The most recent test flight was a complete success with the Mighty Eagle flying to an altitude of 30 ft. The lander successfully identified its landing target and safely touched down.
“This is huge. We met our primary objective of this test series — getting the vehicle to seek and find its target autonomously with high precision,” said Mike Hannan, a controls engineer in Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. “We’re not directing the vehicle from the control room. Our software is driving the vehicle to think for itself now. From here, we’ll test the robustness of the software to fly higher and descend faster, expecting the lander to continue to seek and find the target.”
Below you can check out the Mighty Eagle’s test flight footage.