Masten and XCOR NASA Lander Strategic Relationship

I had to keep this under wraps until this morning, but it’s now formal:

May 25th, 2010, Mojave, CA, USA: XCOR Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, two of the leaders in the New Space sector, have announced a strategic business and technology relationship to pursue jointly the anticipated NASA sponsored unmanned lander projects. These automated lander programs are expected to serve as robotic test beds on Earth, on the lunar surface, Mars, near Earth objects and other interplanetary locales, helping NASA push the boundaries of technology and opening the solar system for future human exploration.

Masten’s award winning automated vertical take off, vertical landing (VTVL) flight vehicles combined with XCOR’s strong experience in liquid oxygen (LOX) / methane powered propulsion systems and nonflammable cryogenically compatible composite tanks, brings to NASA a powerful and competitive combination of innovative talent with a proven record of producing exceptional results quickly and affordably.

Last October, Masten won the $1 million first prize for Level II of NASA’s Lunar Lander Challenge, beating out a host of New Space rivals, and demonstrating they are the leading VTVL development group in the country. In 2007 XCOR Aerospace’s LOX/methane engine, developed for NASA, was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Inventions of the Year”, recognizing XCOR’s successive advancement in the state of the art of both pump and pressure fed reusable, throttle-able rocket propulsion systems. XCOR and Masten have also demonstrated the ability to rapidly take from concept to live fire, new propulsion and control system designs using innovative rapid prototyping techniques that surpass client requirements in much shorter periods of time than traditional aerospace methods.

Dave Masten, founder and President of Masten Space Systems commented “Masten Space and XCOR are next door neighbors here in Mojave. We’ve worked together on many tactical problems over the years and our corporate cultures mesh well. Working together on something like this simply made too much sense. We can’t wait to start working with Jeff, Dan, and the XCOR team to help NASA build affordable and responsive landing platforms.”

“Our company work ethic and styles are very compatible, and with XCOR propulsion and Masten VTVL technology, we can solve problems of national interest, and I am excited about the possibilities,” said Jeff Greason, CEO and Founder of XCOR.
Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR added, “It’s a no brainer, Dave’s team is the absolute best New Space company when it comes to VTVL and autopilot unmanned operations – they demonstrated that in October by winning NASA’s lander challenge. And we feel our LOX/methane engines are unsurpassed in the trade space today by anyone. We should bring this tandem set of best in class capabilities to NASA, it just makes sense for them and for us.”

XCOR and Masten will be jointly marketing their skill sets and services to the NASA community as prime contractors, and as joint teaming partners for larger systems integrators and prime contractors servicing the NASA community.

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Masten Space Systems is a Mojave, CA based aerospace company developing fully reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) launch vehicles, rocket-related products, and engineering services. The company’s 6000 square foot production facility and 200,000 square foot testing facility is located on the Mojave Air and Space Port. The company designs and builds aerospace solutions that focus on durability, long operational lifetimes, and minimal per-flight maintenance. For more information on the company see

XCOR Aerospace is a California corporation located in Mojave, California. The company is in the business of developing and producing safe, reliable and reusable rocket powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and other enabling technologies for responsive private space flight, scientific missions, upper atmospheric research, and small satellite launch to low earth orbit. The Lynx is a piloted, two seat, fully reusable, liquid rocket powered vehicle that takes off and lands horizontally. The Lynx production models (designated Lynx Mark II) are designed to be robust, multi-commercial mission vehicles capable of flying to 100+ km in altitude up to four times per day. XCOR’s web address is:

Michael Mealling
Masten Space Systems
Phone: +1-888-488-8455 x102

Mike Massee
XCOR Aerospace
Phone +1-661-824-4714 x127

I can’t speak for the company, but personally I’m really glad we were able to find a way to make this partnership work. I’ve got nothing but respect for the XCOR team, and have been trying to find a way to work with them for years. As Jeff said at Space Access, it’s deals like this that show that the industry is starting to grow up.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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9 Responses to Masten and XCOR NASA Lander Strategic Relationship

  1. Doug Jones says:

    Like peanut butter & chocolate 🙂

  2. Rand Simberg says:

    Or chocolate-covered pizza.

  3. johnhare johnhare says:

    So, is it MasCOR or XCOsten?

  4. JohnHunt says:

    I’ve searched the Web but was unable to discover any reference to a NASA plan for outsourcing the development of a lunar lander. Is this partnership in response to some actual NASA plan or is it a way of encouraging NASA to head this direction?

    Also, it sounds like the landers would be useful in multiple locales. But an asteroid doesn’t need a lander and the physical environment of Mars is sufficiently different than the moon such that I would imagine that each would need a different type of lander. What gives?

  5. JohnH,
    This is in response to actual NASA interests. I don’t know how much I can say (since I’m not C-level, and not so in-the-loop on business stuff), but there have been several recent announcements for things like terrestrial free-flier test beds that NASA would like to see in the near term. NASA isn’t building actual lunar landers quite yet, but they do have sensors and control algorithms that they’d love to be able to test here on the ground before starting the actual lander development. So, at least for near-term needs, they’re a lot closer to what we and XCOR have demonstrated so far, but there is the potential for follow-on work that would involve actual landers on the Moon. We’ll see where this goes, but I’m optimistic. Regardless of which way Congress sends NASA, this is something they are interested in doing, so I’m pretty excited.



    There ya go. And I guess when it comes to NASA money in the Masten/Armadillo rivalry there’s plenty to go around 🙂

  7. Company name: XMas, pronounced “X-Mass.”

    Congratulations on a hopefully synergistic combination!

  8. johnhare johnhare says:

    Merry XMas then.

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