Masten Tests a Xombie, Outjumps the Grasshopper
You think if SpaceX “Grasshopper” took the crown in PR and publicity it’s the only working VTVL? Watch and think again: Masten’s “Xombie” succeeded in flying more than twice the height of Grasshopper and land vertically on a spot 300 meters away from the launch site. That was quite a feat!
Of course you have to see that the Xombie is more than 10 times smaller than the Falcon derived Grasshopping wonder.
Precision landing rockets are very trendy these days. In addition to SpaceX flying its cowboy-piloted Grasshopper, Masten Space continues pushing pinpoint rocket landing capabilities to new heights. Its latest trick is having rockets return to the ground in controlled free fall as if they were landing on an asteroid, or the moon, or Mars.
Masten’s most recent Xombie flight saw the rocket climb to 1,626 feet (496 meters) while simultaneously beginning to fly sideways. With peak altitude reached and a horizontal component to the flight path, the rocket’s guidance system reduced the thrust and Xombie began falling back to earth, accelerating to around 60 mph. This speedy descent took Xombie along a diagonal path designed to simulate a return trajectory from orbit, part of a NASA research project for future planetary landers.
“Two hundred meters above the Martian or lunar surface is not the place you want to be using an innovative new sensor or landing algorithm for the first time,”
explained Christopher Baker of the Flight Opportunities Program at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. “We are working to create an environment that provides opportunities to test these systems a little closer to home.”