Masten’s Reusable Rockets Prepare Spacecraft for Distant Landing on Other Worlds

Technology for spaceflight requires testing on Earth. Masten Space Systems built Xodiac to test terrain-relative navigation and hazard-avoidance systems for landings on Mars, the Moon, and more. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

Rocket-powered vehicle for testing lander navigation systems supports space companies

MOJAVE, Calif. (Mojave PR) — How can a spacecraft land itself on alien terrain? NASA needed a better answer than “very carefully.” To spur innovation towards the first autonomous landings on the Moon, the agency presented the Lunar Lander Challenge. In 2009, a young company called Masten Space Systems earned one of the top prizes.

(more…)

New Composite Material Could Make Manufacturing on the Moon and Mars More Efficient

Above: An experimental composite material for the Moon/Mars cures inside an acrylic vacuum chamber. (Credit: PISCES)

HILO, Hawai’i (PISCES PR) — NASA has plans to put humans back on the Moon as early as 2025 and ISRU (in-situ resource utilization) will be a crucial technology for establishing the infrastructure needed to sustain humans in the harsh lunar environment. Using raw, native materials, ISRU can provide vital resources like breathable air, tools or building blocks for shelters.

(more…)

NASA Armstrong Accomplished Numerous Milestones in 2021

Joby eVOL acoustic test (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — This year marks 75 years of flight research at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and 2021 adds to those achievements. 2021 continued to be challenging while working in a mostly virtual environment, but progress was surely made.

NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59, is taking shape for upcoming flights; NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57, completed ground testing to prepare for flights; several Earth science missions were completed around the globe; and many other goals were met to prepare NASA Armstrong for a successful 2022 and beyond.

(more…)

NASA Selects Nine Space Technologies for Commercial Suborbital Flight Tests

Carthage College student Nicolas Welker prepares to start a zero-gravity transfer of propellant simulant during a flight on Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE on Nov. 16, 2021. The flight enabled testing of technology designed to gauge propellant levels during on-orbit refueling and transfer operations. (Credits: Zero Gravity Corporation/Steve Boxall)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies under the agency’s 2021 TechFlights solicitation for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems.

(more…)

SSC and Masten Space Systems Sign Agreement for 2023 Lunar Mission

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

DUBAI, UAE (SSC PR) — Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and Masten Space Systems has signed an agreement to provide communications support for Masten’s upcoming mission to the lunar south pole scheduled to launch in 2023. The agreement was announced today at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2021 in Dubai.

(more…)

Action! Filming a Simulated Lunar Landing From the Dusty Desert Floor

Zandef Deksit’s ExoCam in its metal cage rests on the desert surface of Mojave, California. Masten Space Systems’s Xodiac VTVL vehicle can be seen in the ExoCam’s viewfinder and in the distance. (Credits: Jason Achilles Mezilis/Zandef Deksit, Inc.)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

MOJAVE, Calif. — Video capture during future lunar landings could play an important role in contributing to researchers’ understanding of disturbances in lunar surface materials – called regolith – caused by the lander’s rocket plume. With support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, on Oct. 14, 2021, researchers from Los Angeles-based Zandef Deksit put a high-tech video capture and regolith sensor payload called ExoCam to the test. The desert environment of Mojave, California, provided a stand-in for the surface of the Moon, and the Xodiac vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) platform from Masten Space Systems was the test vehicle.

Simulating the movement of a lunar lander, the VTVL vehicle enabled researchers from Zandef Deksit and co-investigators from Honeybee Robotics to test an ejection mechanism to jettison the ExoCam onto the desert surface at specific altitudes just before landing. Along with calculations to account for lunar gravity, this helped the team understand the limit of how far from a planetary surface they would need to eject the payload in order for it to survive landing and function properly.

Once on the ground, the payload’s camera captured video footage from the unique vantage point of the desert surface. The ExoCam also utilized a regolith sensor developed by co-investigators at Arizona State University to capture data about the quantity of regolith particles picked up by the vehicle’s rocket plume, as well as the speed at which they were propelled as the lander descended onto the surface.

About Flight Opportunities

Flight Opportunities rapidly demonstrates promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers. The program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and evaluation of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

NASA Tests Landing Pad Materials For Future Lunar Missions

Hot fire tests examined the suitability of the materials that could be used in the construction of landing pads on the lunar surface for large landers—materials like sintered basalt rock pavers, carbon fiber blankets, and carbon fiber blankets filled with a lunar regolith simulant. (Credits: NASA)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Large Vehicle Landing Surface Interaction project team is working to develop a landing pad concept for the Moon that could one day be constructed directly on the lunar surface. Researchers from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida who are working on improving plume surface interaction models traveled to the Mojave Desert in California to conduct materials testing with Masten Space Systems late last year.

Using hot gas from a rocket engine, they conducted a series of hot fire tests on samples of various materials similar to those found on the surface of the Moon. These tests examined the suitability of the materials that could be used in the construction of landing pads on the lunar surface for large landers—materials like sintered basalt rock pavers, carbon fiber blankets, and carbon fiber blankets filled with a lunar regolith simulant.

Data from the hot fire testing will be used to design landing pad concepts for future NASA and commercial human lunar missions. In addition to hot fire test data, the team is developing models to better understand how a lander can affect the lunar surface. This data will allow NASA to identify safe locations for large landers and help enable the agency’s Artemis missions. NASA’s Large Vehicle Landing Surface Interaction project is a public-private partnership with SpaceX under the 2019 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity.

NASA’s Large Vehicle Landing Surface Interaction project, also referred to as “LPAD,” is funded by NASA’s Game Changing Development Program under the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Mitigating Lunar Dust: Masten Completes FAST Landing Pad Study

A spacecraft creates its own landing pad using the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique system. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — Landing on the Moon (and staying on the Moon) is no easy task. The lunar surface has limited sunlight, extremely cold temperatures, and lots and lots of dust (a.k.a. lunar regolith). But the good news is, Masten is up for the challenge!

(more…)

Masten Mission 1 Lander Name & Patch Revealed

Credit: Masten Space Systems

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — As you all know by now, Masten is landing on the Moon in 2023! Masten Mission 1 will be the first of many Masten missions to the lunar surface and beyond. And this first mission is kind of a big deal… it will help lay the foundation for future human missions, and it offers a lot of scientific value.

We’re landing at the lunar south pole near the Haworth Crater, which is adjacent to the Malapert massif where the change in elevation exceeds 8 km – an elevation very close to Mt. Everest. This diverse topography offers the potential to explore both near-surface and deep reservoirs to detect lunar ice and volatiles, such as methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia.

Our lunar lander (configuration XL-1) will supply the ride for this important mission, carrying payloads for both NASA and commercial customers. So it’s about time we give XL-1 an official name and mission patch.

(more…)

Masten Mission to Lunar South Shifted 11 Months to Late 2023

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif., June 23, 2021 (Masten Space Systems PR) – Masten Space Systems is proud to be one of NASA’s providers for lunar delivery services to the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. Masten Mission 1 includes delivery of science and technology instruments near the Haworth Crater at the lunar south pole, a site expected to offer insight into the presence of important volatiles on the Moon. In addition to commercial payloads, Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver and operate eight NASA-sponsored payloads to assess the composition of the lunar surface, evaluate radiation, and detect volatiles, such as water, methane, and carbon dioxide, under the agency’s Artemis program.

(more…)

Break the Ice: Masten Designs Rocket Mining System to Extract Lunar Water

Mining system on the moon. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten PR) — At Masten, we’re working to accelerate the realization of space ecosystems on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Our goal is to unlock the value in space to ultimately benefit humans on Earth. So how do we achieve that? First, we’ll enable regular, sustainable access to the lunar surface. Then, we’ll make it possible to extract and utilize extraterrestrial resources, such as water, methane, and rare-Earth metals. These resources can be used not only for fuel and power, but they also open the door to new commercial applications and technology innovations that can help preserve our resources on Earth.

(more…)

Masten & PISCES Receive NASA Grant to Develop Low-energy 3D Construction Method for Moon, Mars

HILO, HI (PISCES PR) — Masten Space Systems together with Pacific International Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) has been awarded a NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 grant of up to $125,000 to develop a low-energy, additive construction method for the moon and Mars.

When humans go back to the moon, they will need materials to build shelter, infrastructure and crucial components for survival and operations. Not only that, but they will need an energy-efficient technique that takes raw materials and turns them into usable products—all in the vacuum of space.

(more…)

Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

(more…)