Masten Space System's Xombie flies the Lunar Lander ChallengeMasten Space Systems successfully flew their Xombie vehicle today, completing two flights and meeting the Level 1 requirements of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. This qualifies them for the $150,000 prize.

Masten had a previous attempt on September 16, 2009, but did not complete the second flight due to engine damage. Masten went back to their workshop and solved the engine problem, tested it over the last several weeks and today flew an aluminum engine, making this the first known flight of such an engine on a reusable launch vehicle (Armadillo Aerospace also flew a aluminum engine for their September 12, 2009 flight, although their’s utilized a graphite liner).

Amidst chants of “Fly Xombie, fly!”, the first flight lasted about 93 seconds and the vehicle landed ~20 cm from the center of the pad; almost a perfect repeat of their first NGLLC flight. The second flight lasted 91 seconds and the vehicle landed 11 cm from the center of the pad — an impressive feat indeed (all numbers preliminary until judges declare them official).

“We congratulate the Masten Team of their great success today and wish them luck as they prepare their second vehicle, Xoie, for the Level 2 attempt on October 28 – 29.” said the XPrize Foundation spokesperson. Photos are posted on Picasa, and the XPrize Foundation will post video as soon as [they] have it in the next day or two.

[[ Masten has Will’s Qik video at: http://masten-space.com/blog/?p=365. ]]

Masten and his teammates still have to wait until the end of the month to find out whether any of their competitors for the $150,000 prize – Team BonNovA on Oct. 26-27 and California-based Team Unreasonable Rocket on Oct. 30-31 – can do better.

The same goes for Armadillo Aerospace, which qualified for the challenge’s more ambitious $1 million Level 2 prize last month. Masten, Unreasonable Rocket and BonNova are going after Level 2 prizes as well. (Second prize is $500,000.)

Doug Graham, a spokesman for Masten Space Systems, said that if Masten and his team could maintain the kind of accuracy they achieved today during their upcoming Level 2 flight, “they’ll beat Armadillo” for the million dollar prize. The best thing about today’s outing was that it proved there’s more than one prizeworthy competitor out there.

Masten Qualifies for NGLLC Level 1