Armadillo Aerospace made two flights of its lunar lander prototype today, putting it in the lead position to capture the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. (View a team photo taken after the successful flights.)
The Mesquite, Texas-based company completed two test flights in one day from a test facility in Caddo Mills, TX, to satisfy requirements for Level 2 of the prize. The second level requires the rocket to fly for 180 seconds before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface constructed with craters and boulders.
The winner of Level 2 will be awarded $1 million, with a $500,000 award for second place. Last year, Armadillo won $350,000 for successfully completing Level 1 of the prize. There remains a $150,000 prize for second place on Level 1 that has not been claimed yet.
There will be two additional attempts by competing companies during the next six weeks:
- Masten Space Systems will make flight attempts on September 15-16 (Level 1), October 7-8 (Level 2), and October 28-29 (Level 2).
- Unreasonable Rocket will attempt both Level 1 and Level 2 flights on Oct 30-31.
Previously, the challenge was held in one weekend annually in New Mexico where the teams brought their landers. For financial reasons, teams allowed to attempt flights from their own home bases during a launch window that runs through the end of October.
At the end of the window, any teams that have accomplished the mission will be ranked based on the landing accuracy achieved in each of their rocket powered flights, and the prize purses will be awarded accordingly.