Headlines > News > Masten Space Systems fly 1st leg of NGLLC, but no Prize Today

Masten Space Systems fly 1st leg of NGLLC, but no Prize Today

Published by Rob Goldsmith on Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:01 pm
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Just a few days on from Armadillo Aerospace completing the 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC) Level 2, Masten Space Systems have been flying their lunar lander rocket vehicle, today’s flight aiming for the NGLLC Level 1 Prize.

Masten flew in an attempt to win the second prize in the Level 1 competition, the first prize going to Armadillo Aerospace last year. The second place prize totalling $150,000 USD will pave the way for their attempt at the Level 2 competition in October.

Today Masten flew their rocket XA-0.1B, also called “Xombie.” The team had to complete two successful rocket flights within two hours and 15 minutes, with the rocket rising to 50 meters, translating over to a second landing pad, and remaining in the air for at least 90 seconds on each flight.

Jon Goff had spoken earlier this week on the Official Masten Space Systems Forum,  detailing some of the progress the team were making Jon told the Space Fellowship that they had done two 95-100s flights adding “the engines are now proven for the flight duration we need.” He later discussed how they had done some ground and landing takeoffs and the new controls were doing well. This was only their second untethered flight, the first to rise 50 metres, could the craft perform for the judges?

All set for the Level 1 attempt the team were joined by Burt Rutan, the man behind SpaceShipOne, the Mothership WhiteKnightOne flew overhead catching the eyes of many spectators. The weather was an improvement on the rainy day Armadillo Aerospace flew in four days ago. The safety briefing was completed in the morning, the vehicle preparation took place while the judges made all of the necessary measurements.

The clock was started, but before the team could fly the vehicle it had to be moved from the staging area to the pad, the 2.5 hour countdown now underway.  The valves were checked and activated, the LOX vehicle left the pad, the judges were given a two minute warning.

Bye bye "X". Burned it right off the pad! Credit:NGLLC

Bye bye "X". Burned it right off the pad! Credit:NGLLC

The rocket lifted off, a great site to everyone there. For the less fortunate it was up to reading forums and viewing Twitter! As the rocket lifted off “We are go! … And …. Ignition!” was posted across the internet. The first flight looked to be a success, minor brush fires were put out. Later reports came online suggesting that the first flight had a landing accuracy of 10cm (Other reports suggesting 19.7 cm), flight one was complete, the X burned right off the pad! Could it fly again?

Reports started to circulate that  the first flight had not been completely successful. Rumours suggest that the craft had picked up some damage to the regeneratively-cooled engine. With a couple weekends still left for the team they decided to leave it for the day and return again before the end deadline, they didn’t want to risk any further damage.

Although the team didn’t pick up the prize today they still have time to try again. Also waiting is Unreasonable Rocket’s Paul Breed. Unreasonable Rocket, will attempt  Level 1 as well as Level 2 at its launch site in Cantil, Calif., on Oct. 30-31.

Masten has already scheduled multiple dates at which they will attempt to complete the requirements for the Level 2 mission in October, which would put them in the running for a $1 million prize purse. Masten and the other teams have until October 31st to match or exceed Armadillo’s accomplishment.

Congratulations to Masten for a great first flight, everyone now looking forward to the next attempt at the prize.

Please feel free to send your messages of support to the Official Masten Space Systems Forum.

1 Comments
Rob Goldsmith
What a video!
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