Masten Space Systems’ Xaero-B test vehicle was damaged during a flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port last month. The company says it has no plans to repair it at this time.
A source who requested anonymity reports the crash occurred on April 19. The vehicle rose about five to 10 feet off its launch pad, began to pitched over and then fell to the desert floor, the source said.
Excerpted from the FAA report, “Commercial Space Transportation: 2012 Year in Review”.
FAA Suborbital Flight Summary
On October 6, at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-B suborbital reusable vehicle (SRV) made the only FAA-licensed suborbital launch of 2012. However, six other suborbital vehicles flew under experimental permits or Class 3 waivers.
The STIG-B flight was the first FAA-licensed launch from Spaceport America. The launch experienced an in-flight abort. It did not reach its planned altitude, but the vehicle was successfully recovered intact and later used to conduct launch tests in November and December. Armadillo successfully launched its STIG-A vehicle under a Class 3 Waiver in January, but the vehicle was lost during recovery.
Athough Masten Space Systems lost its Xaero vehicle during a test flight in September, the reusable rocket lives on at the company’s headquarters at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Part of the vehicle has been turned into a grill, which was used the other day for the company’s holiday party. Alexander Hreiz (@MdlRcktScientst) Tweeted the picture.
Masten Space Systems’ Xaero vehicle crashed during a test flight in Mojave on Tuesday. according to the company’s blog:
Today, Masten Space Systems conducted a flight test of Xaero to 1 km altitude with the intention of testing flight controls at higher ascent and descent velocities. Our test objectives were met and initial results show the vehicle performed better than expected at altitude. However, the vehicle was lost during final approach to landing, and the initial cause appears to be a throttle valve failure. The most important thing is that our team is safe and with the data from this test, we expect to be flying again soon!
Video Caption: Masten’s Xaero returns to the skies to complete a flight to 444 meters [1,457 feet] AGL – a record for Xaero and the company. Xaero took some time off while the team put significant work into updating her landing gear and cutting mass and solving some guidance issues. Onward and upward!
Video Caption: Upon completion of Xaero’s free flight hover earlier this month, she performed yet another successful free flight to an altitude of 61 meters on February 17th, 2012. The exterior view of the flight reveals a bobble at apogee, as well as a slight rocking motion after touchdown. Despite these imperfections, the flight was a complete success, with all test objectives reached or exceeded.
Video Caption: After rigorous adherence to Masten’s “modify, test, modify” philosophy, Xaero has finally been unleashed from the safety tether, and performed a successful free flight hover this week. Improvements to our control algorithms were validated under tether earlier in the week, followed by careful analysis of Xaero’s flight performance. The result is a picture perfect 22 second hover flight.
Video Caption: This lengthy hover flight of Xaero was intended to test our new closed loop controller across Xaero’s entire weight regime. Additionally, the modified algorithms were further validated in the presence of high winds, as shown by the fluttering of the tether. The new controller performed beautifully, rendering the flight a total success.
Masten Space Systems has released its Payload User’s Guide as a Friday deadline looms for applications for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which pays for flights aboard Masten’s Xaero rocket and other suborbital vehicles.
Caption: Here is a glimpse of our tethered test sequence. With the tied down (or tied up) tests completed, this is the next step in qualifying our Xaero rocket vehicle for flight. In addition to testing the various aspects of the hardware and shaking out bugs in the software, we are also refining our crew operations. Today (05.12.11) we completed 3 tethered flights. Yesterday, we ran 5 tethered flights. It shouldn’t be long before the chains come off and the free flights begin. Stay tuned for more updates.