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Masten Space Systems Complete NGLLC, Level 1

Published by Rob Goldsmith on Wed Oct 7, 2009 7:30 pm
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Today, October 7th 2009, Masten Space Systems flew their “Xombie” craft in their second attempt to complete the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC) Level 1.

To claim the prize 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.

Xombie after September attempt, Credit: NGLLC

Xombie after September attempt, Credit: NGLLC

Back in September Masten flew the craft in their first attempt to complete the competition, the first prize going to Armadillo Aerospace last year. The first attempt resulted in one successful flight before the craft was retired for the day due to damages picked up during the flight.

Masten wished to collect the second place prize totalling $150,000 USD, this is set to pave the way for their attempt at the Level 2 competition, again already completed by Armadillo Aerospace earlier this year.

Nearly a month on from the first flight the team were ready to try again. As with the first attempt, those unable to attend the flight were left to the Internet as their best means of grasping information, online forums and Twitter proving popular. The added bonus this time of course being that videos were being fed to the QIK NGLLC Site, a fantastic and popular idea. This move will have surely pleased those who complained about the lack of coverage available during the first attempt.

The clock started and the official timer was counting down, the team completed the pre-flight checks, the craft was then fuelled ready. The truck left the vehicle and there was a five or so minute wait. The QIK video started up live once again ready to record the first flight, buffering issues were addressed by the cameraman as he explains he is “running it from his cell phone”.

The craft flew the first flight successfully, viewers estimating it to last for 93 seconds clearing the 90 second required per flight, the first flight also boasting a 20cm accuracy. As the craft rose up the video caught it making its hover in front of the sun, see image below to the right.  The first flight watched around the globe peaked at around 110 online viewers plus all those lucky enough to have attended.  One Twitter user commented “ I love living in an era when we can cover rocket launches with mobile phones“, How true!

Xombie Craft captured by a cellphone hovering in front of the sun

Xombie Craft hovering in front of the sun, captured by a cellphone

Everyone waited anxiously to hear if the engine had completed the first leg successfully or if it has suffered the same fate as the previous attempt, then the announcement “The engine is good“. The clock started again, everyone’s thoughts now turning to the final flight, the crowd cleared once again back to the 1500ft line. The truck moved away from the Xombie craft, the team were now already a step nearer to the prize than their previous attempt.

The second flight went underway and around 90 seconds later it was sat safely on the opposing pad. Both flights now completed, the hard part was done, Dave Masten quoted as saying “We flew us a rocket ship!“.

The final part of the competition went underway without any issues, the Xombie craft was placed back onto the truck. Reports came in as the clock finally stopped for the day! MastenSpace Twittering “Clock stopped. And the crowd goes wild!

Masten Space Systems had now completed their part, the only thing left was to get the official confirmation from the judges. The judges once again confirmed the landing accuracy, 11CMs for the second leg.

With the only remaining issues coming from the team deciding which side of the craft should be used for the official picture our congratulations go to Masten Space Systems!

We all now looking forward to the remaining teams attempting to better Armadillo Aerospace at the Level 2 competition.

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

Rob Goldsmith
Congratulations from me as well!

Now we wait for the Breeds to give you a run for your money!
(oh and then there is BonNova of course)
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