Masten Space Systems, based at the Mojave Spaceport in California, demonstrated yesterday the ability to successfully re-light the engine of a VTVL (vertical-takeoff vertical-landing) vehicle in midair. This marks the first-ever midair relight for any VTVL rocket-powered vehicle.
"We're extremely excited and very proud to announce that we now have in-air re-light capability," stated CEO David Masten in a press release issued by Masten Space Systems. "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. Each milestone we hit makes the path to space much clearer." More information from Masten is available at http://masten-space.com/blog/?p=532 .
In 2009, Masten Space Systems won the $1 million top prize in Level 2 of the NASA Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, by flying a vehicle that could hover for 180 seconds while translating between two pads, and repeating the feat within about 2 hours. Masten Space Systems is developing a series of VTVL vehicles to achieve increasingly high altitudes and achieve low-cost, rapid-turnaround access to the space environment.
Masten's success comes days after the White House spotlighted NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR), which will invest $15 million per year to enable flights of science, research, and educational payloads aboard commercial suborbital vehicles being developed by Masten Space Systems and other companies such as Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace.
In a White House blog post on Tuesday, Thomas Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), stated, "Thanks in large part to the $10 million Ansari X Prize, a new generation of commercial suborbital spacecraft has been under development by entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, John Carmack, David Masten, and Jeff Greason. CRuSR--one of several innovative priorities for NASA's new Chief Technology Officer, Bobby Braun--is building on that momentum. Starting next year, NASA will invest $15 million per year to support a wide range of technology demonstrations, educational experiments, and science payloads on these new vehicles." The White House OSTP blog post can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/25/nasa-nurtures-new-ideas-near-orbit .