NASA says the Project Morpheus lander vehicle has "experienced a hardware component failure", and exploded during a test flight at Kennedy Space Center.
NASA's Project Morpheus lander was undergoing testing at Johnson Space Center in Houston for a year. It arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 27 to begin about three months of tests.
According to NASA, the "lander is moving one step closer to achieving autonomous flight and landing."
Morpheus is a NASA-designed vertical test bed vehicle. It is aimed at demonstrating new green propellant propulsion systems, autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. According to NASA, it is large enough to carry 500 kilograms of cargo to the moon, such as a humanoid robot, a small rover, or a small laboratory to convert moon dust into oxygen.
However, during a free-flight test, the lander lifted off successfully, but then experienced a hardware component failure, did a flip and then exploded after hitting the ground.
Firefighting personnel of the Kennedy Space Center extinguished the resulting fire and no one was injured.
NASA's Morpheus Lander undergoes testing
NASA engineers are examining the test data to find the reason behind the failure. NASA said in a statement on its website that the agency will release information on the cause of the crash as soon as it becomes available.