NGLLC 09: Masten

Today, it's Masten's turn. Update: As of 9:13am Pacific, Masten is officially on the clock! They have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the mission (not including any official holds ('time outs') granted by the judges! First flight is expected shortly after 10am.

Only 4 days after Armadillo Aerospace successfully completed the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Level Two mission just outside of Dallas, TX, Masten Space Systems is making an attempt at Level One from their home in Mojave, CA, about two hours from downtown Los Angeles. (For a quick refresher about the two different levels, and about the logic behind the rules, see this old blog post.)

In order to support these attempts, the Challenge Judges, X PRIZE Foundation officials, and NASA representatives quickly moved from Texas to California to set up operations. There were pads to be inspected, landing accuracy measurements to be calibrated, and safety briefings to attend--including this morning's brief at the almost painful hour of 5:30am.

To be required to support two missions within the span of less than a week is truly an honor for us at the X PRIZE Foundation, and an incredibly positive sign for a part of the industry that for all intents and purposes did not exist when this Challenge was announced four years ago.

On hand to view today's launch attempt will be many representatives of NewSpace companies in addition to engineers from a variety of NASA centers, in particular NASA Dryden. Everyone we have spoken to is incredibly excited about this new capacity that is developing in the industry for cheap, frequently-flying test platforms.

The best way to follow along with today's action is via Twitter--either by following our own @NGLLC09 account or by searching for the #NGLLC hashtag. If you are tweeting about the competition yourself, please remember to put the #NGLLC tag anywhere in your post!

Vehicle prep is underway as the time of writing of this post, and takeoff on the first leg of the mission is expected sometime close to 10:00am Pacific.

Team Masten loads their rocket "Xombie" onto the pad early in the morning, in preparation for their attempt to win Level One of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Photo Credit: E. Bina / X PRIZE Foundation

Unloading #ngllc on Twitpic
Masten unloads Xombie onto the launch pad, a few minutes into the start of their official competition window. Photo Credit: A. Stiles / X PRIZE Foundation

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