Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.
Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.
Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.
As had been rumored for several months now, Armadillo Aerospace is currently inactive. Jeff Foust at NewSpace Journal reports that company is essentially out of money and is currently in “hibernation.”
“The situation that we’re at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode,” Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. “I did spin down most of the development work for this year” after the crash, he said.
This week, the The FAA has on its website lists of the 216 licensed and 28 permitted launches the agency has approved since 1989. They provide fascinating insights into the state of the U.S. launch industry during that period.
In this excerpt, we will examine permitted and licensed “NewSpace” suborbital launches by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Scaled Composites and SpaceX. We will see how prizes and competitions have helped to spur on launch vehicle development, the long gaps that can follow initial spurts of progress as companies take the next steps, and how few flights some billionaires are actually getting for their money.
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. (more…)
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.
Unreasonable Rocket flew its Blue Ball lunar lander on Saturday, but the little vehicle ran out of fuel before it could complete two flights in its effort to capture part of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
Masten Space Systems successfully qualified for first place in Level Two of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Wednesday. Flying a brand new vehicle named XA-0.1E (nicknamed Xoie), Masten demonstrated their ability to build, debug and fly a vehicle on a very short timeline.
â€œTo come from not flying at all last year to qualifying for level one AND level two of the LLC this year shows how far our technology has progressed,â€ Masten Space Systems CEO David Masten said. â€œAfter a short vacation we will start modifying Xoie for commercial payloads and begin work on Xoieâ€™s successor.â€
Unreasonable Rocket’s first and second attempts to launch its Blue Ball lunar lander fizzled today. In both attempts, the vehicle rose briefly off the pad, hovered unevenly, settled back down to the surface, and tipped over on its side.
Company CEO Paul Breed and his son, Paul, have called it a day in order to make repairs to the lander. The company has additional launch windows on Saturday at its site in Cantil, Calif. The first window opens at 10 a.m. PDT.
Statement by John Carmack Founder, Armadillo Aerospace Competitor, Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge
For the past couple weeks, as it became clear that Masten had a real shot at completing the level 2 Lunar Lander Challenge and bettering our landing accuracy, I have been kicking myself for not taking the competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy. If they pulled it off, I was prepared to congratulate them and give a bit of a sheepish mea culpa. Nobody to be upset at except myself. We could have probably made a second flight in the drizzle on our scheduled days, and once we had the roll thruster issue sorted out, our landing accuracy would have been in the 20cm range. I never thought it was worth investing in differential RTK GPS systems, because it has no bearing on our commercial operations.
The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. I don’t hold anything against Masten for using an additional time window that has been offered, since we wouldn’t have passed it up if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the judges part.
John Carmack, founder of Armadillo Aerospace, is crying foul over the decision to give Masten Space Systems an extra day to complete its Level 2 flight for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. He sent a email to Alan Boyle over at MSNBC:
The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. I don’t hold anything against Masten for using an additional time window that has been offered, since we wouldn’t have passed it up if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the judges part…..