Saturday, April 14, 2012

Space Access '12: Dave Masten - Masten Space Systems

Although they didn't discuss prizes much other than their accomplishments in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge which I've covered in earlier posts (including Space Access reviews from earlier years), I'll include the presentations of the LLC and power beaming teams at the conference because it's important to see where the prizes fit in the overall course of a participant's history. Prizes aren't just about the competitions themselves, but are also about what the participation enables in the long run.
Masten wants their latest vehicle, Xaero, to reach 100,000 feet and to be reusable. They have flown it twice, and also had about 88 tether tests. It's like their LLC winner on the inside,but with an aeroshell. The aeroshell changed the vibrations and accoustic environment, which made landing difficult. They had IMU trouble with this. Now they are free flying. Maybe in another week they will have more flying, then go much higher.

Sensei is a "Master Rocket Hypervisor". It's a proven GNC system that operates in the background while a new, unproven one controls the vehicle in flight. It will take over the flight if needed. One with Draper Labs and NASA was flown on Xombie for about 25 flights including some purposely making Genie (the tested GNC system) go out of parameters so Sensei had to take over the flight.

They see 2 business lines: high altitude rockets, and entry, descent, and landing.

Zeus is derived from an old concept where an upper stage does most of the landing on a body like the Moon, then it is landed on the side with side engines. ULA engineers expanded on this idea 6 years ago using a Centaur. ULA donated a Centaur to Masten to investigate Zeus. Masten is hoping to develop the idea more and then have NASA pick it up. Masten propulsion would be on the side of the Centaur for final landing. They are now working on terrestrial tests. The donated Centaur is good enough for a terrestrial demo of GNC, etc. They have 2 buildings now, and one is called "The Stable" because it has a Centaur in it! They estimate that this would land 14 tons to the surface, or 5 if it's reusable.

They are building a second Xaero because they have so many customer needs in the 5-6 km range. They hope to get to 100,000 feet in a few months, but that's not a promise. They plan this launch to be from Mojave hopefully, and then to go elsewhere.