Masten Space Systems successfully qualified today for a $150,000 prize in NASA’s Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge by flying a rocket-powered vehicle twice in two hours between a pair of landing pads. Masten’s vertical-takeoff-vertical-landing vehicle, known as “Xombie,” met the requirements of Level 1 of the Lunar Lander Challenge by ascending to a height of 50 meters, translating horizontally to a landing pad 50 meters away, landing safely on a concrete pad after 90 seconds of flight time, and then repeating the flight.
The flights took place at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, where Masten Space Systems’ facilities are based. Today’s successful flights by Masten, along with successful flights last month by Armadillo Aerospace, mean that it is certain NASA will be giving away at least two checks worth a total of at least $1.15 million this year. Later this month, Masten is also scheduled to compete for Level 2, which requires 180 seconds of flight time rather than 90 seconds.
David Masten, CEO of Masten Space Systems, stated, “The Xombie’s flights have established Masten Space Systems as a serious competitor. This is not just good for Masten, but good news for the commercial space industry. It shows that we have grown to the point that many teams now have the skills to build and fly successful rockets.”
Brett Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, added, “Congratulations to Masten Space Systems, NASA, Northrop Grumman, and the X PRIZE Foundation for a job well done. The Lunar Lander Challenge is generating a tremendous return on NASA’s investment, helping to build the workforce, technologies, and vehicles useful to both NASA and the commercial spaceflight sector.”
Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which manages the prize on behalf of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, said, “Congratulations to Dave Masten and his team on successfully completing Level-1 of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. What they accomplished with 6 people is outstanding. These young entrepreneurial companies are the future Apple and Dells of the space industry, building the propulsion that will launch the public into space. They are also the industry cluster that will give NASA robust future suppliers and capability.”
Masten’s flights complement the success of the Armadillo Aerospace team, led by id Software founder John Carmack, which qualified in September for the $1 million first place prize for Level 2 of the Lunar Lander Challenge. Before the closing of this year’s competition window on October 31st, Masten Space Systems will attempt Level 2 of the competition, along with two additional competitors, Unreasonable Rocket and BonNova, who will compete for both levels.
Each level of the Lunar Lander Challenge includes both first and second place prizes, with the second place prize for Level 1 worth $150,000, and the two prizes for Level 2 worth $1 million and $500,000. In 2008, Armadillo Aerospace claimed the first prize for Level 1, worth $350,000.
Image credit: Masten/X Prize