Feeds

VTOL hovership in semi-successful X-Prize attempt

Alcoholic rocket retires with internal burns

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

A Californian firm has carried out the first untethered flights of its alcohol-fuelled hover rocket, able to take off and land vertically and potentially offer ballistic flights beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

The rocket in question is the XA-0.1B (aka "Xombie") rocket from Masten Space Systems, fuelled on alcohol and liquid oxygen, seen here in an earlier tethered test:

"The flight was absolutely beautiful!" said David Masten, CEO of Masten Space. "The control systems were designed to control the vehicle to high accuracy, and worked. We landed within a few inches of the target. That's pretty amazing considering the vehicle is balanced on top of a plume of burning alcohol. It feels great watching something work exactly the way you designed it to work."

The Xombie flight didn't quite go according to plan, however. It had been meant to be a qualifying attempt at Level One of the Lunar Lander Challenge X-Prize, which would have called for an intial hover from one pad to another at least 50m away, with flight time of at least 90 seconds - followed by a return journey under the same conditions after refuelling.

But after the Xombie set down following the initial hop, engineers found that it had sustained damage to its combustion chamber. Rather than risk a catastrophic mishap, they decided to cancel the second flight and make a further Challenge attempt next month following modifications.

"We have a good handle on the problem and we're already working on a fix," said Masten's Jonathan Goff. "We should be back in the air in a week or so."

The firm is also working on a lighter, longer endurance rocket called XA-0.1E or "Xoie", able to fly a Level Two Lunar Lander X-Prize test. Into the future, the XA series rockets are intended to make suborbital flights outside the atmosphere. Unlike some other private space firms such as Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace etc, Masten intends to target unmanned research missions rather than space tourism.

In the short term, however, the company wants to succeed in the Lunar Lander Challenge. At the moment it has yet to pass even a Level One test - whereas rival firm Armadillo Aerospace scored a Level Two success earlier this month and so will scoop the $1m prize unless Masten or dark-horse contender Unreasonable Rocket can surpass its benchmark.

Armadillo, pet project of games kingpin John Carmack, scored a $350k Level One purse as the sole successful Lunar Lander Challenge contender last year. Masten has booked slots for both Level One and Level Two attempts next month, as has Unreasonable Rocket.

Hover rockets able to achieve the Level Two standard are also able potentially to reach quite high altitudes, and the Armadillo bunch at least see this as the next step. However, despite the "Lunar" tag, they aren't able to reach the moon on their own any more than an Apollo lunar module could. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.