Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from

Lift Off for a Robotic Lunar Lander

NASA tests a new power system.

  • January 7, 2011

This week, NASA and Johns Hopkins University tested a new propulsion system for a prototype robotic lander they are jointly developing. While the robot didn’t leave the ground, the “hot-fire” tests successfully verified the performance of its thrusters.

NASA tests the robotic lander’s prototype propulsion system. Credit: Dynetics Corp.

The propulsion system was developed by Dynetics Corp, an engineering company in Huntsville, Alabama. According the NASA press release:

The prototype’s new propulsion system consists of 12 small attitude control thrusters, three primary descent thrusters to control the vehicle’s altitude, and one large “gravity-canceling” thruster which offsets a portion of the prototype’s weight to simulate a lower gravity environment, like that of the moon and asteroids. The prototype uses a green propellant, hydrogen peroxide, in a stronger concentration of a solution commonly used in homes as a disinfectant. The by-products after use are water and oxygen.

The robotic lunar lander is part of a larger NASA project to develop smart, versatile, and autonomous robots that can explore the moon and near-Earth asteroids. The agency’s goal for the robotic lunar lander prototype is for it to fly up to 60 seconds with a controlled landing in a simulated low gravity environment. Flight tests began in 2009 and thus far 142 have been conducted. The robotic lander currently has a record flight time of ten seconds and a descent altitude of three meters.

A flight test in 2009 at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credit: NASA

The AI revolution is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.