Masten Space Systems Xaero-B VTVL rocket demonstrator

The Xaero-B is taking shape at Masten Space Systems.

Xaero-B is a replacement for the Xaero VTVL test vehicle that crashed last September. Xaero-B is not a mere copy of the original XAero, however. It incorporates numerous improvements. The payload bay is significantly larger and XAero-B is designed for higher-altitude flights (up to 6 kilometers).

Xaero-B is considerably larger as a result. Xaero was about 12 feet tall. Xaero-B will stand somewhere between 15 and 16 feet tall.

Xaero-B also sports a new boat tail that makes it look a lot like the spaceship Luna from Destination: Moon. More proof that Robert Heinlein had it right all along.

Written by Astro1 on March 25th, 2013 , Masten Space Systems

Dave Masten, CTO Masten Space Systems

Masten Space Systems, one of the leaders in VTOL rocket development, has announced the availability of postgraduate fellowships.

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Written by Astro1 on January 27th, 2013 , Masten Space Systems

Masten Space Systems has released the following statement on the loss of the Xaero vehicle during flight test on September 11.

Last week we encountered a sub system failure in flight that necessitated turning the rocket off while still in the air. Landing at that point winds up considerably rearranging the rocket into rocket parts.

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Written by Astro1 on September 19th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems

Masten Space Systems has posted a blog entry about today’s test flight, which didn’t go as well as planned.

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!

That’s why they call it testing.

Written by Astro1 on September 11th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems

We’re not talking about the migration of humans from Earth into space, although we are optimistic that will begin in earnest in the next few years.

We’re talking about the migration of commercial space companies from one part of the United States to another.

In July, XCOR Aerospace announced the relocation of its main research and development operation to Midland, Texas. Next week, XCOR is expected to make another announcement. Although the official statement won’t come until August 23, word is already out on the street that  XCOR will announce the development of an engine and vehicle production facility in Florida.

XCOR will retain some operations at Mojave Air and Space Port, in the high desert of California where the company was born. It will probably continue to base a Lynx suborbital spaceship there for the foreseeable future, to provide a launch site for West Coast missions. The company’s main focus, however, is clearly shifting to other states.

Some observers may question the sudden expansion of XCOR into not one, but two new states. The move makes sense, however. Locating R&D and production facilities in two separate states will minimize the possibility of R&D activities randomizing the assembly line.

It’s also worth noting that Masten Space Systems has a signed contract with Space Florida to begin flying its VTVL rocketship at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At the moment, the agreement calls for nothing more than demonstration flights, but that could change in the future. Space Florida officials expect XCOR to create 152 new jobs in Florida. They are no doubt keeping a close eye on Masten. If they see similar potential for growth, it’s reasonable to expect that they will make a push for that company as well.

Meanwhile, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is looking to expand operations in Texas, both at its McGregor testing facility near Waco and a proposed new launch site in South Texas.

All of these moves have one common denominator: they are away from California. While other states are dangling incentives in front of emerging space companies, California has elected to incentivize trial lawyers instead. States such as Texas have passed bills to protect commercial spaceflight operators from potentially crippling lawsuits, but a bill introduced in the California legislature was watered down to the point of meaninglessness. It appears that California has decided to export aerospace jobs.

Written by Astro1 on August 16th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems, Spaceports, SpaceX, XCOR Aerospace

Masten Space Systems’s XAERO recently completed a record flight to 444 meters (1457 feet) above ground level. XAERO is the first Masten vehicle with an aeroshell, which will allow flights to high altitude. Masten is currently conducting envelope-expansion tests to verify the new aerodynamics.


Written by Astro1 on July 4th, 2012 , Masten Space Systems

Current Administration space policy calls for NASA to look beyond the “been there, done that” of the Moon.

From a policy perspective, that is arguably a wise decision. By returning to the Moon, NASA might easily end up stuck in an “ISS 2 on the Moon” situation.

There’s also a technological argument against returning to the Moon, however. Returning to the Moon would require developing a lunar lander, a new piece of a single-purpose hardware that would make lunar landings more expensive than missions to, say, an asteroid. But is that assumption necessarily true?

Under the Bush Vision of Space Exploration, NASA was planning to spend around $10 billion to development the Altair lunar lander. That’s certainly a significant amount of money – several times what SpaceX expects to spend to develop both the Falcon rocket and the Dragon capsule – but NASA was proposing (not unexpectedly) to build the mother of all lunar landers, rather than a minimal cost system. Since we now know that’s unrealistic, what sort of lander options might be affordable, either for NASA or private industry?

Surprisingly, there are a number of possibilities which, if not quite off-the-shelf, are fairly close.

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Draper Laboratories tested its GENIE guidance system (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) on a recent flight of Masten Space System’s Xombie vehicle. Draper has now posted a Youtube video of the test flight.

Written by Astro1 on February 16th, 2012 , Commercial Space (General), Masten Space Systems, Space Exploration (General)