Masten competed in the NASA and Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize in 2009 with Xombie (model XA-0.1B). Xombie came away from the lunar lander challenge with an average landing accuracy of 6.3 inches qualifying it for Level One second prize of $150,000 on October 7th, 2009. The Xoie VTVL won the $1,000,000 Level Two prize of the Lunar Lander Challenge on October 30th, 2009 with an average landing accuracy of about 7.5 inches. Masten’s future vehicles have improved this performance and landing accuracy to provide EDL and testbed flight services to customers through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
Masten is lowering the barriers to space access through our core technology of re-usability. This simple mission is our contribution to a shared strategic goal of extending human presence across the solar system. Our approach to lowering barriers through re-usability is expressed through the enabling technology of entry descent and landing technologies (EDL) to ensure precise and safe landings on planets and other celestial bodies.
Founded in 2004, Masten Space Systems has been committed to rapid re-usability for over a decade. This demonstrated re-usability enables us to reliably and safely test new technologies aboard our rocket-powered landers.
We believe that rockets should operate more like airplanes than ballistic missiles.
We start every project with one eye trained on operability. This means designing every aspect of the rocket so it can be launched by a small team. Hardware, software and safety systems should work together to support crew safety without adding numerous required personnel to each operation. This is a delicate balance and something that is informed by hundreds of testing days since 2004.
We believe that reusability provides several benefits, one of which is an ability to focus on iterative testing of new systems. Reusability provides the ability to lower the cost associated with each flight event. But without the proper experience, reusability can introduce more complexities in maintenance and operation than benefits.
We believe computers can fly rockets better than people can. Smart, autonomous systems enable us to keep the number of required personnel for each test to a minimum. Software can react faster to more data than humans can, and we program our systems to be the first line of defense in the event of an anomaly. Because the rocket can recover from poor situations before they arise, this increases the chances of recovery and re-test after a situation has been resolved.
We approach testing iteratively, blending agile software development methodology with a bias for real-world data. There’s a time and place for simulation and analysis, but it should be framed with experience and truth data.
We see a future where rocket flights are so commonplace they’re boring. We’re not there yet, but we want to work to make that a reality.
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