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NASA Awards $475,000 to Armadillo and Masten for Suborbital Flights

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Masten Space Systems' Xombie rocket.

NASA PRESS RELEASE

NASA’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.

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Views From a Spaceport

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Orbital Sciences Corporation's Stargazer aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The L-1011 is used to launch Pegasus rockets to space.

The dusty desert town of Mojave might not have very much to recommend it, but the town’s spaceport is definitely worth a visit. Some photos I took during the recent Plane Crazy Rockets R Us open house.

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Photos: Masten Space Systems’ Brutus Vehicle Under Construction

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The lower section of Masten Space Systems' Brutus vehicle.

Masten Space Systems’ Ken Brown was kind enough to give me a tour of the company’s facility in Mojave on Saturday. Above is the first stage of the company’s Brutus vehicle, which will fly to an altitude of 100,000 feet beginning this Fall.

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Armadillo’s Carmack Snipes at Rivals, Threatens to Steal Their Engineers

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Fresh off a cash infusion from new partner Space Adventures, Armadillo Aerospace CEO John Carmack spent some time this weekend sniping at rivals during the NSS International Space Development Conference in Chicago. Jeff Foust reports in The Space Review:

Carmack generated a little bit of controversy when he compared Armadillo’s efforts with those by competing suborbital developers. Virgin Galactic, he suggested, would not be able to fly as cheaply as Armadillo; Virgin currently charges $200,000 for a ticket while Space Adventures is asking for about half that, $102,000. “I think they have explicitly not chosen the most cost effective solution on this,” Carmack said. “I don’t think they will be able to compete on price, eventually, but some people will prefer their experience.”

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Dave Masten: Our Company is Doing Great

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Masten Space Systems' 'Xoie' lunar lander.

Masten Space Systems founder Dave Masten gave an update on his company’s progress at ISDC yesterday. Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) Tweeted the following:

  • Masten: we’re in really good financial shape, have a lot of cash in the bank. Our sales pipeline is full.
  • Dave Masten on #isdc entrepreneurial panel: excited about NASA’s new direction. We see a lot of opportunities for us.
  • Masten: working now on AeroXoie, their LLC Lvl 2 vehicle with reconfigured tanks and aeroshell.
  • Dave Masten on use of a trash can lid on Xoie: “we informed Rubbermaid that their product was now on the ITAR list.”

XCOR on a Roll

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XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason gave two talks on Friday at the ISDC . The first, which dealt with the company’s business prospects, seems to have been quite upbeat. The other, a luncheon talk about the current debate in Congress over NASA’s human spaceflight plan, was decidedly less so.

Here, the good news…

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Video: Xombie Engine Re-Light As Seen From Ground

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A view from the ground of Masten Space Systems’ first in-air engine relight on May 26, 2010.

Video: Masten’s Xombie Engine Relights in Mid-Air

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On May 26, 2010, Masten Space Systems demonstrated an in-air relight on our VTVL reusable rocket, XA-0.1B (Xombie). This test was a major step towards flying payloads on suborbital flights. The view above is from a camera mounted on one of the landing legs.

Below is a video from the lander looking down.

XCOR, Masten Space Systems Form Strategic Partnership for Lander Work

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Masten Space Systems' 'Xoie' lunar lander.

XCOR/MASTEN PRESS RELEASE
May 25, 2010

XCOR Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, two of the leaders in the New Space sector, have announced a strategic business and technology relationship to pursue jointly the anticipated NASA sponsored unmanned lander projects.

These automated lander programs are expected to serve as robotic test beds on Earth, on the lunar surface, Mars, near Earth objects and other interplanetary locales, helping NASA push the boundaries of technology and opening the solar system for future human exploration.

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Masten Plans Suborbital Research Flights By Middle of Next Year

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Masten's Xoie lunar lander after a test flight.

Masten Space Systems hopes to begin suborbital space flights by the middle of next year, a company official said today.

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Video: Masten Flies Xombie in the Desert

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Masten Space Systems flew its Xombie lunar lander vehicle to an altitude of 68 meters in Mojave on Friday.

Video: Masten’s Xoie Flies the Lunar Lander Challenge

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The down looking camera from the pad B to pad A flight of the level 2 of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

Masten, Armadillo Awarded Prizes in DC Ceremony

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L-R: George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA; Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator; Doug Comstock, Director, Innovative Partnerships Program, NASA; David Masten, CEO, Masten Space Systems; Phil Eaton, VP, Operations, Armadillo Aerospace; Rep. Ralph Hall, Texas, Ranking Member, Science & Technology Committee; Peter Diamandis, Chairman & CEO, X PRIZE Foundation; Mitch Waldman, VP, Advanced Programs & Technology, Northrop Grumman

L-R: George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA; Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator; Doug Comstock, Director, Innovative Partnerships Program, NASA; David Masten, CEO, Masten Space Systems; Phil Eaton, VP, Operations, Armadillo Aerospace; Rep. Ralph Hall, Texas, Ranking Member, Science & Technology Committee; Peter Diamandis, Chairman & CEO, X PRIZE Foundation; Mitch Waldman, VP, Advanced Programs & Technology, Northrop Grumman

X PRIZE PRESS RELEASE

Today, the X PRIZE Foundation along with NASA hosted an awards ceremony to culminate the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge (NGLLXPC). Masten Space Systems, led by David Masten, was awarded the top $1 million prize, while Armadillo Aerospace, led by id Software founder John Carmack took home the second place prize of $500,000.
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Masten, Armadillo to Receive Awards on Thursday

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NASA PRESS RELEASE

NASA will award $1.65 million in prize money Thursday to a pair of innovative aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again.

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Unreasonable Rocket Ends Quest for Lunar Lander Prize

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Reports out of Cantil indicate that Unreasonable Rocket has ended its quest to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. During a test flight using a crane and tether, Unreasonable’s Silver Ball lander oscillated, broke the tether, and fell back onto the launch pad on its side. A leg punctured the fuel tank, damaging the vehicle and preventing another flight attempt on the last day of the competition.

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