MOJAVE, Calif., May 26 /PRNewswire/ — Masten Space Systems, a leader in vertical take off, vertical landing (VTVL) rocket vehicles, successfully demonstrated in-air engine re-light capability today at the company’s test facility in Mojave, CA. Xombie, Masten’s most-flown vehicle, carried out the test Wednesday and became the first VTVL vehicle to successfully re-light a rocket engine in flight.
VTVL launch vehicles conserve fuel by shutting down their engines during the coast and re-entry phase of a flight. Being able to re-light the main engine is critical to safely landing the vehicle. Combining throttle-ability and restart-ability in the same propulsion system improves vehicle capability, flexibility, and operability.
“We’re extremely excited and very proud to announce that we now have in-air re-light capability,” said David Masten, CEO. “The ability to turn off our engine, re-ignite it in flight, successfully regain control and land was the next big milestone as we expand our flight envelope to include high altitude flights. Each milestone we hit makes the path to space much clearer.”
Masten Space Systems continues to lead VTVL vehicle development; coming off a win in the NASA and Northrop Grumman funded Lunar Lander Challenge in October 2009. In flight re-ignition of Masten’s internally developed engine technology is crucial for higher altitude flights with access to premium microgravity, as well as for upper atmospheric scientific measurements.
“This was by far the coolest rocket flight I’ve ever seen!” said Ian Garcia, Masten’s Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Engineer. Much of the work necessary for the in-flight re-light involved custom flight control software written by Garcia. Ben Brockert and Jonathan Goff engineered the propulsion and vehicle systems to allow for a 2 second cycle time from shutdown to restart.
With the completion of this milestone, Masten Space Systems will turn to vehicle development tasks such as supersonic aerodynamics, aerodynamic controls and space-capable electronics.
Videos of the flights are available at http://youtube.com/mastenspace
Masten Space Systems is a Mojave, CA based aerospace company developing fully reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) launch vehicles, rocket-related products, and engineering services. The company’s 6000 square foot production facility and 200,000 square foot testing facility is located on the Mojave Air and Space Port. The company designs and builds aerospace solutions that focus on durability, long operational lifetimes, and minimal per-flight maintenance. For more information on the company see http://masten-space.com