NASA Selects Masten Space & Spectral Energies for Funding to Develop Rotating Detonation Engine Technology

An RDE operates via a continuous detonation wave that propagates around the inside of a cylindrical combustor. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected projects for funding by Masten Space Systems and Spectral Energies that are focused on developing technology for advanced rotating detonation rocket engines (RDE).

The space agency selected the companies for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards that are worth up to $150,000 apiece. Masten and Spectral Energies are both working on high-performance injector systems.


Video: Dave Masten Talks 3D Printing Rocket Engines

Video Caption: This week we bring on guest Dave Masten to get an update of the happenings at Masten Space Systems. In addition to an update on the XS-1 project, we also talk about how Dave and crew is using additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create entire rocket engines. Interview starts at 16:59

Masten Selected for SBIR Contract for Mars LOX/Methane Ascent Engine

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)
The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)be

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to begin work on a25 klb thrust liquid oxygen/methane Mars ascent engine.

“Woohoo! We get to build a 25klb thrust LOX/CH4 engine for !” founder Dave Masten wrote on Twitter. “Or at least selected for a Phase I SBIR.”


Stu Witt Retires From Mojave Spaceport in Style

Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

They came to Mojave from near and far — from the dusty desert communities of Lancaster, Boron and Ridgecrest to the snow swept tundra of Sweden — to send Stu Witt off in style. One of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. played hooky from Congress to wish his friend a happy retirement.

Hundreds of people gathered on Jan. 8 to mark the end of Witt’s nearly 14-year term as CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The event featured a reception and a long parade of friends and colleagues singing his praises.


Dave Masten Interview on TMRO Show

Video Caption: TMRO is a crowd funded show. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to for information, goals and reward levels.

This week we bring on the Founder and CTO of Masten Space Systems, Dave Masten. Dave talks about the importance of going to the Moon before Mars, platforms for getting there and general space geekery.

In Space News we have:
SMAP launches via Delta II
New SpaceX Falcon Heavy Animation
SpaceX Preparing for Crew Dragon Abort Tests
Spaceport America up for Sale
Fire at the Mars Desert Research Station

Masten Releases Artist’s Conception of XS-1 Vehicle

XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, CA, July 23, 2014 (Masten PR) — Masten Space Systems, Inc. (Masten) announced today that the company has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of Phase 1 of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to develop a reusable launch vehicle.

Over the last decade, Masten has built three highly operable, vertical takeoff/vertical landing, reusable rockets which are flown by small teams of five to seven people. Masten’s experience with vertical takeoff/vertical landing rockets has shown that the company’s flight vehicles can offer greater flexibility than reusable launch vehicles that require runways to land. Masten has logged well over 300 flights to date with its Xoie, Xombie and Xaero reusable rockets.


Mojave Becoming Aerospace Epicenter

Dave Masten, left, and his crew continue working on the Xaero Rocket in the warehouse of Masten Space Systems at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Masten was on the cover of Aviation Week after winning a million dollar prize for his endeavors in the space field. (Casey Christie/The Californian)

Californian staff writer

MOJAVE AIR & SPACE PORT — Aerospace types love this rural desert location for its clear, dry weather, its sparse population and its comfortable distance from major news outlets.

But Dave Masten, CEO of Masten Space Systems, says there’s another reason his company stays in Mojave.

“The neighbors don’t complain,” Masten says with a grin.

“Even if you’re testing a rocket engine,” he says. “And rocket tests can be very loud.”

Long known as a place where space cowboys and scientist-entrepreneurs could carve out a niche in the specialized world of aviation and aerospace, Mojave Air & Space Port has grown — some might say grown up — in recent years to include ambitious, well-funded companies that are expected to deliver on the promise that the sky is no longer the limit when it comes to private space flight.


Space Access ’11: Dave Masten

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

Dave Masten
Masten Space Systems

Developing reusable, highly operable suborbital vehicles and technologies — orbital effort lies in the future

Progress — Past Year

  • Lost some team members — replaced them and added a focus on business
  • First VTVL Relight Flight
  • SBIR
  • Plume Impingement SBIR
  • Scimitar Engine
  • Signed agreement with Space Florida (letter of intent)
  • Xaero in the air
  • Focus on customers


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.”


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


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

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.”


XCOR, Masten Space Systems Form Strategic Partnership for Lander Work

Masten Space Systems' 'Xoie' lunar lander.

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.