Following Armadillo’s bid for the Level 2 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, Masten Space Systems have deployed their Xombie rocket in order to bid for second prize in the Level 1 challenge, which Armadillo won last year. Sadly an engine leak curtailed the required second journey, but at least one was performed and is shown below (rocket’s eye view):
Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of Armadillo’s bid for the Level 2 prize purse:
As these teams, and the others attempting to limber up for the Google X prize (land a rover on the Moon, move it 500 metres and send back high definition imagery) take shape technologically, it is fitting that NASA celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the X-15 jets. These were experimental hypersonic (in excess of Mach 5) jets that flew 199 missions between 1959 and 1968 with 12 pilots that laid the foundation for powered into space and glide return flights like those of the shuttle. Other innovations including flight simulators and chase aircraft following the returning glider were also incorporated into the shuttle program, as was X-15 pilot Joe Engle who flew two shuttle missions later in his career. He was at NASA to help tell the story this week.
Meanwhile efforts to develop NASA’s next generation of equipment continue apace, here’s some Desert RATS (technology tests for future lunar missions) videos from NASA’s Youtube Channel: