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Could one of the next landings on Mars be led by a commercial company? Masten Space Systems vertical take-off and landing vehicle, Xombie, recently tested powered descent and landing trajectory algorithms that could be used for future Mars Entry Descent & Landing (EDL) applications.
“You may have noticed we’ve been flying Xombie a lot lately doing some interesting things,” wrote the Masten team on their website. “We just finished the third leg of a flight campaign on Xombie that expands the boundaries of what we believe to be the nation’s leading terrestrial landing testbed.”
These very fun-to-watch test flights were completed by Masten for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to test its powered descent and landing trajectory optimization algorithms for future EDL applications.
“It may look easy, but flying VTVL is really hard,” said Masten Space Systems CTO David Masten on Twitter.
The company said the flights this week reached a higher translation velocity than the previous flights and successfully expanded Xombie’s flight envelope. The flight was controlled by Masten’s own Guidance, Navigation & Control system.
The flight ascended to 476.4 meters before translating downrange 750 meters at a horizontal velocity of 24 meters per second (53 mph).
“As far as we know, the 750 meter translation flight represents the longest terrestrial translation flight ever undertaken by a rocket powered vertical takeoff, vertical landing craft” said the Masten website. “You can bet there were a lot of high fives around the Masten team after this flight!”
This was the third test Masten did for JPL to validate their algorithm, and all objectives were successfully met.
Masten Space Systems’ Xombie rocket with Draper Laboratory’s GENIE flight control system takes an untethered flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Photo courtesy of Draper Laboratory)