Armadillo and Masten Earn $475K in NASA CRuSR Funds

Yesterday, NASA announced that it was awarding a total of $475,000 to two of our old friends, Armadillo Aerospace ($225,000) and Masten Space Systems ($250,000). These funds, the first paid out as part of the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) program, will fund a total of seven low-altitude rocket flights between the two companies, each of which will take place in late 2010 and will carry several NASA-selected payloads.

In the words of NASA CTO Bobby Braun, "these two awards are just the beginning of an innovative teaming relationship with industry to provide affordable access to the edge of space while evaluating the microgravity environment for future science and technology experiments. CRuSR represents the sort of government-commercial partnership that will facilitate near-space access at affordable costs."

That's what we're all about here at the X PRIZE Foundation, so you can imagine how excited we were to hear this news and to read Dr. Braun's comments. Indeed, this is exactly what we had in mind when we partnered with NASA and Northrop Grumman to create the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE, the incentive prize that Armadillo and Masten jointly won in 2008 / 2009. We hoped the prize would identify technologies and companies that could contribute to lowering the cost of useful rocketry, and this purchase is a sign that that wish is coming true (much as the recently announced Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data program is for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. That Armadillo's flights will happen at SpacePort America, our partner for the first three years of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE, is a nice bonus.

Jeff Foust supplies some additional information about the payloads: "The NASA press release mentioned that the vehicle will be carrying antennas to support the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) navigation system for the FAA, but that will not be the only payload they will carry. Dougal Maclise said at [a panel at AIAA Space 2010] that the vehicles will also carry a “flight monitor” from NASA Ames to measure the flight environment of the vehicles, including acceleration and vibration. A third payload is a 'particle agglomeration' experiment from the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California Berkeley tat has previously flown on the ISS. The key requirements for all the experiments, he said, is that they be 'self-sufficient, autonomous, and expendable.'"

Sounds like exciting stuff. So, congratulations to Armadillo, Masten, NASA, and fans of affordable science everywhere!

Read more at Cosmic Log (MSNBC), the NewSpace Journal, Fast Company, or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

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