Home Bots & Brains Astrobotic acquires Masten Space Systems

Astrobotic acquires Masten Space Systems

by Pieter Werner

Astrobotic announces the acquisition of Masten Space Systems, a space technologies company with suborbital payload testing services, which has completed more than 600 vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) rocket flights. The acquisition also includes Masten’s portfolio of space technology development programs with over 18 years of operations.

Astrobotic and Masten’s combined workforce of more than 200 employees will continue operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The combined company will maintain suborbital flight operations at Masten’s test sites at Mojave, with plans to continue offering the space industry a key testing site for hot fire rocket tests.

Masten won first prize in 2009 in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE. That win helped lay the foundation for Masten’s one-of-a-kind VTVL flight program, which has demonstrated industry-leading landing precision and rapid reusability over its 600+ VTVL flights to date. Since 2011, Masten has served NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, providing flights to NASA-sponsored payloads to prepare them for spaceflight. Masten rockets have flown payloads for current and future lunar and interplanetary missions, including Astrobotic’s OPAL terrain relative navigation system, Honeybee Robotics’ PlanetVac system, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s lander vision system for the Mars Curiosity mission.

At Astrobotic, the former Masten team will continue to offer and develop test capabilities, including providing VTVL test flights for commercial and government customers. Astrobotic plans to expand these test flight offerings with the development of the next-generation Xogdor rocket, which will offer higher altitudes, longer missions, and supersonic flight for suborbital payload testing.

Beyond VTVL flights, Masten’s propulsion test stands will advance rocket technology for both external customers as well as Astrobotic departments. This testing infrastructure, which ranges from single element injector testing to 25,000 pound thrust rocket engine testing to landing simulation testing will provide a variety of hot fire solutions to support Astrobotic and its customers.

Astrobotic will also continue to advance Masten’s space technology portfolio, which includes innovations in lunar night survival, instant landing pads construction, lunar water mining technology, and lunar infrastructure construction technologies. These new technologies are highly complementary to Astrobotic’s landers, rovers, and surface system product lines.

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