Press Release

Masten Space Systems Attempts to Qualify for X Prize Foundation’s Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Million Dollar Prize

By SpaceRef Editor
October 6, 2009
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Rocket Launch Scheduled For Oct. 7, 2009 at Mojave Air & Space Port, CA

WHAT: On Oct. 7, Masten Space Systems will attempt to win a portion of a $2 million incentive prize purse as part of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC), funded by NASA, and created and presented by the X PRIZE Foundation.

Masten will be the second of four teams competing in the NGLLC. They will be competing in Level 1 mission of the competition, hoping to win a second-place prize of $150,000 (first place went to Armadillo Aerospace at last year’s competition). This will be their second attempt at a Level 1 challenge as the team made an effort on Sept. 16 when their rocket, rocket XA-0.1B, also called “Xombie”, remained in the air for 93 seconds, surpassing the required 90 seconds flight time. However, upon inspection of the vehicle post-landing, Team Masten noticed a leak in the engine chamber and decided to postpone the required return trip to the starting point.

The two-level competition requires private companies to develop and launch rocket technology that will assist in NASA’s return to the Moon. To accomplish the Level 1 lunar analog mission, Masten must complete two successful rocket flights within two hours and 15 minutes, with the rocket rising to 50 meters, translating over to a second landing pad, and remaining in the air for at least 90 seconds on each flight.

On Oct. 28 and 29, Masten will attempt to complete the requirements for the Level 2 mission, which would put them in the running for a $1 million prize purse. For Level 2 they will attempt to complete the requirements with its rocket XA0.1E, also called “Xoie.”

The Level 2 mission of the challenge will require the team to launch its spacecraft 164 feet in the air for 180 seconds before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface with craters and boulders. The minimum flight times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission simulates trips between the Moon’s surface and lunar orbit.

The competition underscores the report to President Obama last month by the Augustine Commission, which called for increased commercial sector participation both in orbital operations and NASA’s efforts to reach the Moon by 2020.

On Sept. 12, Armadillo Aerospace, led by id Software founder John Carmack, successfully completed the requirements for the Level 2 NGLLC prize purse, making it certain that NASA and X PRIZE will award at least $1 million before year’s end. Masten and the other teams have until October 31st to match or exceed Armadillo’s accomplishment.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 7
Media check-in at 6:00 a.m.

WHO: Interviews will be available with the following:

  • Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation
  • David Masten, President and CEO, Masten Space Systems
  • Will Pomerantz, Senior Director, Space Prizes, X PRIZE Foundation

MEDIA: Media are invited and encouraged to attend. Interested media should contact Tom Dietz at tdietz@kirvindoak.com or 702.737.3100.

WHERE: Mojave Air & Space Port
1434 Flight Line St.
Mojave, California 93501

OTHER: According to NASA, the historic 1969 lunar module would cost $12 billion in 2009 dollars. A mere 1/1000 of the cost has been spent by the competing teams ($12 million) to bring lunar landing technology into the 21st century.

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For More Information: Tom Dietz, Kirvin Doak Communications; (702) 737-3100; tdietz@kirvindoak.com

SpaceRef staff editor.