Masten Xaero

Yesterday during flight testing of Xaero vehicle at higher altitudes the craft started to oscillate during landing final approach and crashed to the ground in a fiery explosion.

official word from Masten:

“Today, Masten Space Systems conducted a flight test of Xaero to 1 km altitude with the intention of testing flight controls at higher ascent and descent velocities. Our test objectives were met and initial results show the vehicle performed better than expected at altitude. However, the vehicle was lost during final approach to landing, and the initial cause appears to be a throttle valve failure. The most important thing is that our team is safe and with the data from this test, we expect to be flying again soon!

Thanks for your support!”

Great multi-camera view of the latest Masten Xombie EDL test flight. This time the flight takeoff and landing sites were 750 meters apart and the flight apogee of 476 meters.

“Less than a week after the successful completion of the 650 meter down range flight on August 9, Masten successfully conducted the third and final flight of its recent Entry Descent & Landing test campaign for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)**. Reaching an altitude of 476.4 meters, the vehicle translated 750 meters down the test range at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The flight, controlled by Masten’s native Guidance, Navigation & Control system, precisely matched its targeted trajectory and met all test objectives.

As with the flights on July 25 and August 9, this test served to evaluate JPL’s powered descent and landing trajectory optimization algorithms for future Mars Entry Descent & Landing (EDL) applications.”  -Masten

The evolution of Masten’s Xaero is turning it into a really cool looking rocket. This is a nice video with several great angles and a nice view out the window.

“Masten’s Xaero returns to the skies to complete a flight to 444 meters AGL – a record for Xaero and the company. Xaero took some time off while the team put significant work into updating her landing gear and cutting mass and solving some guidance issues. Onward and upward!”

“Upon completion of Xaero’s free flight hover earlier this month, she performed yet another successful free flight to an altitude of 61 meters on February 17th, 2012. The exterior view of the flight reveals a bobble at apogee, as well as a slight rocking motion after touchdown. Despite these imperfections, the flight was a complete success, with all test objectives reached or exceeded.”Masten Space Systems

There are some great onboard shots in this video.

The folks over at Masten know how to decorate for the Holidays.

click to enlarge

Just a little over 6 months after winning the Northrop Grumman Lunar landing X-Prize Masten Space Systems continues to move forward with their VTVL vehicles.

“MOJAVE, Calif., May 26 /PRNewswire/ — Masten Space Systems, a leader in vertical take off, vertical landing (VTVL) rocket vehicles, successfully demonstrated in-air engine re-light capability today at the company’s test facility in Mojave, CA. Xombie, Masten’s most-flown vehicle, carried out the test Wednesday and became the first VTVL vehicle to successfully re-light a rocket engine in flight.” Read the full release here

Just two days ago Masten released a press release that they are partnering with XCOR Aerospace in a venture to jointly pursue NASA unmanned lander projects. You will probably recall XCOR Aerospace for their X-Racers.

photo courtesy of Masten Space Systems

photo courtesy of Masten Space Systems

This week Masten Space Systems completed Level 1 of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. They join Armadillo Aerospace (who completed Level 2) to complete a level of this X-Prize challenge. Both flights landed less than 20cm off center and were conducted flawlessly.

Mojave, California – October 8, 2009 – Masten Space Systems successfully completed level one of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize Wednesday. The 715lb vehicle originally named XA0.1B – referred to as “Xombie” – completed two flights to qualify for the $150,000 Level One prize of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

The flight trajectory involved taking off from a pre-designated launch pad, ascending to an altitude of 53 meters, flying 50 meters horizontally to another pad, and landing as close as possible to the pad’s center. The small Masten Space team then refueled Xombie before making an identical flight back to the original pad. Average landing accuracy for the two flights was 16cm (6.3 inches) from the target on each pad.

Qualifying for level one of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize is a huge demonstration of the company’s ability to turn a vehicle around quickly and efficiently as it works towards a high flight rate commercially. “We flew two fairly boring flights within two hours. I suspect we could have done it half a dozen more times if we had the fuel available. We should be offering that same operational efficiency to our customers very soon,” said David Masten, CEO.

Xombie’s propulsion system is a proprietary regeneratively cooled isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen rocket engine. The engine was originally designed for 750 pounds of thrust but is now running at around 900 pounds. “Xombie’s current engine is a variation to those we’ve used in the past,” said propulsion engineer Jonathan Goff. “We expect to continue to use this line of engines well into the future and make them available commercially.”

“Being able to complete level one means we’re ready to start scaling up the vehicles and pushing the flight envelope” said Ian Garcia, Masten’s flight software engineer. “I’m really looking forward to going higher and faster until we hit space.”

In addition to flying “Xombie,” the Masten team is assembling and testing another vehicle – XA0.1E – for two Level Two attempts later this month. “XA0.1E – or ‘Xoie’ as she’s called – is lighter and has larger propellant tanks to handle the additional flight time required for Level Two,” said project manager Ben Brockert. “Now that Xombie is done we can focus exclusively on Xoie. Being able to compete for both Level 1 and Level 2 in the same month with two different vehicles will be a seriously cool accomplishment.”

Masten expects to begin offering payload slots on low altitude commercial flights by 2010. “Using the same technologies and operational procedures demonstrated in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, we can offer affordable payload options for research, Technology Readiness Level acceleration, or quality assurance applications,” said Michael Mealling, Vice President of Business Development. “Along with our recent Department of Defense SBIR contract, this flight signals the advance of Masten Space Systems into a new stage of business.”

“Ultimately, we are looking to open up the final frontier by making space travel as safe, simple and ubiquitous as flying an airplane,” said Masten. “This is just one small step on that path.”


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