NASA Selects 7 Companies for Suborbital Research Flights

SpaceShipTwo glides downward on its first test flight. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selected companies are:

— Armadillo Aerospace, Heath, Texas
— Near Space Corp., Tillamook, Ore.
— Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif.
— Up Aerospace Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colo.
— Virgin Galactic, Mojave, Calif.
— Whittinghill Aerospace LLC, Camarillo, Calif.
— XCOR, Mojave, Calif.

As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, each successful vendor will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. These two-year contracts, worth a combined total of $10 million, will allow NASA to draw from a pool of commercial space companies to deliver payload integration and flight services. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.


FAA Experiment to Fly on Masten Xaero CRuSR Flight

The Xaero vehicle during assembly November 2010. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

From the FAA:

An FAA-sponsored payload (an ADS-B transmitter, loaned to NASA by MITRE Corporation), will fly on NASA-funded CRuSR missions. This payload will be hosted on both the Masten Space Systems Xaero reusable launch vehicle (RLV). This vehicle will operate in Vertical Takeoff/Vertical Landing (VTVL) mode with minimal lateral translation during flight. A NASA payload that will monitor vibration and other environmental parameters during flight will also fly on this mission. This is the first experimental payload NASA has selected to fly on a commercial RLV as part of their CRuSR Program.

The Masten Space Systems Xaero vehicle will operate from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA. It will fly twice to an altitude of up to 17,900 feet above MSL. The Masten Space Systems Xaero CRuSR mission will occur NET mid-July 2011.

Read the full FAA fact sheet below.


A Busy Summer Looms for Masten

The Xaero vehicle during assembly November 2010. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

A couple of weeks back, I took an excursion down to Mojave to see what’s happening in that hotbed of rocket innovation. I had the pleasure of meeting with Masten Space Systems’ Nathan O’Konek, who filled me in on the latest developments with the company and gave me a tour of one of its test sites.


Video: Flight of Masten’s Xaero

This is the fourth tether flight of Xaero. This is a flight that runs until the fuel is gone. This makes for a good impromptu test of the structure at the end of the run when the rocket flames out and is caught by the tether. We did not fill the fuel tank all of the way up on this flight. The flight test went well and we’ll be back out to fly some more after the crew has the chance to analyze the data.

Teachers in Space to Fly Student Experiments on Masten Vehicles

Masten's Xombie vehicle


In the summer of 2011, high-school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers will have the chance to fly experiments on an early unmanned flight of a suborbital reusable launch vehicle (RLV). The Excelsior STEM mission was announced here today by Teachers in Space, a nonprofit project of the Space Frontier Foundation.

Speaking at the annual Space Exploration Educators Conference, Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright said “Excelsior STEM will provide a historic opportunity for high-school STEM teachers to gain hands-on experience with space-science hardware.”

Video: Masten’s Brutus Engine Test

This is the first engine fire of XA-0.1-E2 “Brutus”. The crew of Masten Space Systems is very happy with the performance of this first firing. After several more tied down engine tests, we will start flying the vehicle on a tether to verify its navigation skills. Free flights will follow after the tethered tests.

Suborbital Spotlight: Masten’s Xaero and Xogdor Vehicles

The Xaero vehicle during assembly November 2010. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR.

Today we will look at Masten Space Systems’ Xaero and Xogdor vehicles. The Mojave, Calif.-based company is expected to make its first Xaero test flight for NASA’s Commercial Reusable Commercial Research (CRuSR) program in January and to begin commercial operations sometime later in the year.


Masten Wins NASA Contact for Lunar Lander Testbed Development

Masten's Xombie vehicle

NASA recently announced that it would be conducting contract negotiations for 350 projects under its SBIR and STTR programs, which are aimed at promoting space technology development by small businesses. Parabolic Arc will be looking at a number of the proposals involving NewSpace companies that it regularly covers or which involve interesting technologies.

COMPANY:Masten Space Systems
LOCATION:Mojave, Calif.
PROPOSAL:Terrestrial Plume Impingement Testbed
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Robotic Systems for Human Exploration


Masten Space Systems proposes to create a terrestrial plume impingement testbed for generating novel datasets for extraterrestrial robotic missions. This testbed would allow rocket plume interactions with lunar, martian, and asteroid surface simulants in a fully instrumented, easy to access, and low cost environment using Masten Space’s existing VTVL suborbital launch vehicles.


Masten, Space Florida Sign Letter of Intent to Fly Vehicles From Florida

Masten's Xombie vehicle

Masten Space Systems and Space Florida announced today the signing of a Letter of Intent to explore performing demonstration launches of a Masten suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“We have been looking at Florida as a launch option for some time now,” stated Masten Founder and CEO Dave Masten. “We are excited to begin the process of determining if Launch Complex 36 is a good location for our flight operations, and hope to attempt a demonstration launch sometime in 2011.”


Video: The Masten Guys Have A Bit of Fun

Caption: We’ve been very quiet lately as we are exceptionally busy with a new rocket vehicle. Here is the flame bucket/ water deluge/ 7hp bidet that we have been building to use in “hold down” testing. One of our interns, Nadir, is shown performing some data gathering of the flow characteristics.

PopSci’s Best List includes Xombie, Falcon 9, X-37B and Waverider

X-51 Waverider

Popular Science‘s “Best of What’s New 2010” list includes four projects that we have been closely following here at Parabolic Arc:

Congratulations to all the winners!

Meanwhile, Over in Mojave….

With all the focus on festivities at Spaceport America, this video was overlooked. The Air Force’s Everyday Sci-Fi show visits Mojave where blogger Derek Nye gets a tour of XCOR Aerospace and watches Dave Masten launch a Xombie.

ISPCS Session: The Path Forward from DC-X/XA

ISPCS Panel: The Path Forward from DC-X/XA

Bill Gaubatz — President, SpaceAvailable
Jess Sponable — Technical Advisor Air Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
Frederick Bachtel — Director of Strategic Planning & Initiatives, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
David Masten — President and CEO, Masten Space Systems
Nino Polizzi — Vice President, Universal Space Network
James Ball — Senior Manager Flight Engineering, The Boeing Company
Yoshifumi Inatani — Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Neil Milburn — Vice President Program Management, Armadillo Aerospace


Masten Plans Extensive Commercial Flight Operations in 2011

The lower stage of Masten Space Systems' Brutus vehicle.


Masten Space Systems, a leader in vertical take off, vertical landing (VTVL) rocket vehicles, announced a contract today with NASA’s new Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program. The initial contract is for four flights of test payloads on Xaero, Masten’s next-generation vehicle currently in assembly.