Space Access 12: Masten Space Systems

Xombie on the pad.(Credit: Draper Lab)

Dave Masten
Founder and CTO, Masten Aerospace
Mojave, California


  • Xaero capable of reaching 100,000 feet
  • Next generation beyond Xoie, which won the Lunar Lander Challenge
  • Under flight testing now
  • 88 tether flights
  • 2 successful free flights
  • Installing an aeroshell on Xaero changed flight characteristics
  • “By the time we figured out what was going on, we were 88 tether flights in.”
  • Building a second Xaero within the next few months to do high altitude flights up to 100,000
  • Masten has too many customers for the first Xaero, which will be used for low-altitude flights


  • New project for a Centaur-based landing for moon, asteroid, Mars
  • Uses a non-flight Centaur and RL-10 engine donated by ULA
  • Put four, 3,000 lb. thrust Masten engines on the side of the Centaur and a guidance system so it can land
  • Will be testing the vehicle at Mojave – taking it up to altitude and then doing approach landing pattern
  • Reusable Centaur vehicle can land 5 tons on the moon and 5 tons off the surface
  • Would really like to do a test on the Space Launch System flight set for 2017 – send Centaur off to the moon
  • Would like to have Office of Chief Technologist fund the SLS flight
  • Putting Centaur on SLS flight would involve getting three different NASA offices to agree. “It’s never going to happen


  • Hoping to fly it late this year
  • Currently have the parts for it
  • Holding off on building it until after the high altitude Xaero flights so they can incorporate changes

Finances and Business Plan

  • Company is in really good financial shape
  • Two business lines: suborbital flight opportunities and working with groups in NASA on landing techniques

Guidance and Technical Developments

  • Sensei — masten rocket hypervisor takes over if main guidance system failed
  • Xombie rocket flew with GENIE control system developed by Draper labs