An experimental suborbital launcher developed by Masten Space Systems was destroyed during a Sept. 11 test flight from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.
The vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing rocket, named Xaero, lifted off as planned, reached its target altitude of 1 kilometer and was more than halfway back to the ground when the accident occurred.
Preliminary analysis traced the problem to a stuck engine valve, which triggered the rocket’s flight termination system, said Colin Ake, Masten’s director of business development.
No one was injured in the accident.
The rocket, which had made 109 previous flights, was close to being ready to fly its first test payload for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program. Masten also planned to fly the rocket from Florida this year as a pathfinder for the Space Florida economic development agency.
Another Xaero rocket already was in production, Ake told Space News, adding that engineers are trying to speed up manufacturing so that it may be ready to fly before the end of the year.
The purpose of the Sept. 11 test was to assess how Xaero’s flight control system handled a higher velocity ascent and descent. Despite the total loss of the vehicle, those objectives were met, Ake said.