As the X-Prize Cup draws near, we’ve been very busy here at Masten Space Systems. Ian, wrote our latest update earlier today. As Ian points out, we’ve been learning a bunch about our system that is actually accelerating the overall XA-1 development path, even though the delays and “learning experiences” have somewhat delayed the first flight of XA-0.1. The nice thing is that little by little we’re getting a really solid piece of hardware, and more importantly an understanding of what we need to do next time. The learning curve in this business is very steep and unforgiving, but it’s really exciting at the same time realizing that we’re almost there.
I remember last year when we were slogging through all the issues debugging our test trailer and trying to get our first succesful hot-fire test. I remember that giddy feeling though, when we were finally getting there, and that’s what it feels like all over again. Seeing this vehicle stand in the air on quadruple plumes of flame should be a sight to behold.
Unfortunately, as Ian points out, we won’t be competing this year in either of the Lunar Lander Challenges. Trying to field three new vehicles, assemble test and debug 40 igniters and 20 engines, including pumps, flight weight tanks, new landing gear, and everything was just way too much for a four-man rocket team (especially with one of those spending most of the summer working with the AST on experimental permits). As it is, our main focus has always been trying to get a rock-solid reliable vehicle that can take payloads (and eventually people) to space and back.
We wish John Carmack and his team (as well as the Microspace and Acuity teams) a lot of luck this year. We’ll still be there, and we’ll probably do some sort of live-fire demo (possibly an endurance run on one of our vernier engines), we just won’t be competing this year.