Lunar Lander Challenged

One small step for NASA, One giant leap for the X Prize

Welcome to Mojave/Sad News

On the second anniversary of the first day of the Personal Spaceflight Revolution, Masten Space Systems arrived at Mojave Airport/Spaceport.

Masten on the Move

After running into a certain percentage of Scaled Composites‘ handsome propulsion department in front of the Voyager in Mojave, I found Mike Mealling, Pierce Nichols and new Masten Space Systems intern Zac from MIT inside the airport restaurant at lunchtime today.

In a matter of weeks, Mike said, you should be able to see the XA 0.1 practicing tethered flight tests from your table at the Voyager. And even if you can’t see it, you will definitely be able to hear it. After lunch, I followed them back to the new shop, a former barracks that was most recently used by the X Prize Foundation volunteers who worked on building SpaceShipOne replicas. There I met intern Arabella from Embry-Riddle, who was busy unpacking cartons of books. Mike wouldn’t let me take pictures, so check Masten Space Systems blog for his official photos.

Alex Bruccoleri stopped in for a visit, and was impressed by all the wide open space in Masten’s new digs. Alex is an intern at XCOR, where company growth has led to serious overcrowding. I sneaked into XCOR behind Alex when he went back to work, and talked with Jeff Greason for a few minutes while he was finishing his lunch. Jeff was the guy who suggested to Mike Mealling that Masten Space consider setting up shop at Mojave Airport.

About half the XCOR hangar is shielded from unauthorized eyes by a temporary wall of black plastic sheeting. What is back there? “Something,” Jeff said, with a mysterious smile. (Is it possible that XCOR has a secret Lunar Lander Challenge vehicle in development? Probably not. More likely something to do with the ATK methane engine contract.)

The Velocity plane that’s being turned into Rocket Racing League’s prototype X-Racer is in full view for interlopers, along with a schedule that indicates flight testing may begin in August.

XCOR’s new PR chief Jim Busby came out to escort me from the premises (in a friendly fashion), and gave me some very sad news that I’d somehow missed last week. A great space journalist of our time, Aviation Week’s west coast editor Michael Dornheim died when his car went off the road in the hills above Malibu.

I meant to stop by Scaled Composites and tell the front desk Happy Anniversary, but after Jim told me about Mike Dornheim, I completely forgot to do that and just went home sad. I remember on June 20, 2004, the day before the first spaceflight of SpaceShipOne, Burt Rutan said in the press conference that if you wanted to know about his space program, the best thing ever written was the story by Mike Dornheim in Aviation Week.

I only knew Mike slightly, mostly by his work, but also a few memorable occasions in person. I’ll miss him. We all will.

Written by spacefaring

June 21, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Posted in lunar lander

%d bloggers like this: