Fri, May 28, 2010
Masten Space Re-Lights Rocket In Flight
Masten Space Systems successfully demonstrated in-air engine
re-light capability Wednesday at the company's test facility in
Mojave, CA. Xombie, Masten's most-flown vehicle, became the first
VTVL vehicle to successfully re-light a rocket engine in
Masten Xombie File Photo
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
"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,"
said David Masten, CEO. "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.
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