A View from Brittany Sauser

Commercial Rocket Claims Lunar Lander Prize

Successful flight tests of a new rocket could pave the way for commercial missions in 2010.

  • October 7, 2009

Today, Masten Space Systems successfully flight-tested a rocket called Xombie at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The feat could win the company second place in the level one prize of the NASA-funded Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The objective was to fly two missions between pads at least 50 meters apart while remaining in the air for at least 90 seconds.

Masten Space Systems rocket called Xombie.
Credit: NGLLC

Masten’s vertical take-off and vertical landing rocket flew for approximately 94 seconds between two pads 60 meters apart. The rocket engine, which is fueled by isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen, can produce about 850 pounds of thrust and the Masten team developed a flight-control system for the rocket using commercial components.

One of Masten’s competitors, Armadillo Aerospace, was the first to claim the level one prize, potentially earning the company $350,000. Second place is worth $150,000 (although the official results of Masten’s flight test are still pending).

Masten will attempt to claim the more difficult level two prize on October 28 or 29. This involves flying for longer, refueling and landing on a boulder-strewn pad. Two other companies, Unreasonable Rocket and BonNovA, also plan to launch bids to claim both levels in late October.

For the level two prize Masten plans to use a lighter rocket, called Xoie, which also has larger propellant tanks. The company says that completing these milestones puts it “squarely on track for high-altitude commercial flights starting in 2010.”

The goal of the Lunar Lander Challenge–an annual event that started in 2006–is to tap into the commercial industry and connect NASA with entrepreneurs.

This year’s challenge will end in October and any leftover prize money will be carried over to the next year–there are first and second place prizes for each level and the total prize fund is $2 million. The event has also caught the eye of many space investors–its name was buzzing around the Space Investment Summit 7 in Boston recently.

Follow the challenge on Twitter: NASAPrize

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.