Just hours before the space shuttle Atlantis successfully diverted to Edwards AFB, Calif., to complete its astonishingly successful Hubble repair mission on May 24, a much smaller organization with big ambitions was enjoying success of a different kind only a few miles away at Mojave Air and Spaceport.
Masten Space Systems is developing a line of Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) launch vehicles for low-cost, quick turn-around missions. The initial target is the XA-0 1B-750 sub-orbital vehicle (also dubbed the ‘Zombie’) that it hopes to begin offering for scientific and educational payloads on before the end of this year.
Test firings of the 1B-750 isopropyl alcohol/liquid oxygen-powered rocket and proof-of-concept vehicle are currently underway at Mojave. Capable of up to 850 lb thrust, the rocket is stabilized by two-axis main engine gimbals as well as four reaction control thrusters. Masten says the engine is also designed to point up to 15 degrees away from the vehicle centerline, which it adds is more than any other launch vehicle in its class. Click here to view a video of the recent tests.
Alan Radecki, who provided the images below, says the XA-0.1B-750 rocket engine and test vehicle flew successfully several times on May 22. “The Masten crew seemed quite pleased with the performance of the engine and vehicle, with President/CEO David Masten commenting that the engine is actually putting out more thrust that was expected,” he comments. A lighter vehicle is also planned for use with the same engine in the upcoming X-Prize Cup competition.
(Photos: Alan Radecki)