You may have noticed we’ve been flying Xombie a lot lately doing some interesting things. We just finished the third leg of a flight campaign on Xombie that expands the boundaries of what we believe to be the nation’s leading terrestrial landing testbed. We are working hard to deliver a way to test systems at the component level instead of waiting to test multiple complex systems all at once.
Our landing testbed clients, who include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)** and The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (among others), find great value in leveraging commercial platforms to mature technologies that will enable future exploration.
Tuesday we completed the third envelope expansion flight in this campaign, which pushed Xombie to new speeds, distances and altitudes. As far as we know, the 750 meter translation flight represents the longest terrestrial translation flight ever undertaken by a rocket powered vertical takeoff, vertical landing craft. (You can bet there were a lot of high fives around the Masten team after this flight!)***
The flight ascended to 476.4 meters before translating downrange 750 meters at a horizontal velocity of 24 meters per second (53 mph for those of you who were already opening a new tab to check the conversion to commonly used units in the US). All objectives were reached. This was the third test for JPL working to demonstrate their algorithm, and it successfully demonstrated expanded capability on Xombie for EDL systems tests. We’ll let our client speak to their test objectives further at another time. Here’s another compilation of videos from the flight:
This enhanced EDL trajectory capability continues to pique the interest of other groups developing sensors, software, and integrated systems that will enable precision landing in the future. Precision landing technology has been identified as a major challenge facing the space program and we’re proud to contribute our vehicles as testbeds in pursuit of greater landing accuracy. As the nation reaps benefits of these systems in the future, we at Masten are excited to look back and know we contributed to furthering exploration efforts in a meaningful manner.
The Masten Team
**Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a division of the California Institute of Technology.
***High fives are a totally appropriate manner of expressing excitement.