Masten Space Systems and Space Florida announced today the signing of a Letter of Intent to explore performing demonstration launches of a Masten suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
â€œWe have been looking at Florida as a launch option for some time now,â€ stated Masten Founder and CEO Dave Masten. â€œWe are excited to begin the process of determining if Launch Complex 36 is a good location for our flight operations, and hope to attempt a demonstration launch sometime in 2011.â€
Masten Space Systems is a rapid-prototyping rocket technology research and development company based in Mojave, CA. Their fully-reusable, vertical-takeoff-and-landing suborbital rockets are designed to be operated frequently and affordably, flying several missions per day with a small crew.
Mastenâ€™s and similar suborbital RLVs will enable frequent, reliable, and low-cost access to the suborbital space environment. This provides scientists and technology developers with high-quality microgravity, clear observation of space phenomena, or routine contact with the upper atmosphere. â€œWeâ€™ve had interest from many researchers, scientists, and engineers,â€ said Colin Ake, Mastenâ€™s Director of Business Development. â€œWe look forward to conducting regular flight operations in the near future, including using suborbital flights as a quality assurance â€˜checkoutâ€™ for experiments bound for the International Space Station.â€
Masten currently develops its vehicles and carries out flight tests in Mojave, CA. â€œAs our vehicles near completion, weâ€™re searching for the ideal launch location from which to base our flight operations team,â€ said Michael Mealling, Mastenâ€™s CFO. â€œWhile we are preparing for a flight demonstration in Florida, there are enough new space ports around the country that evaluating them will take time. Our ultimate goal is to develop enough market demand to justify flying from multiple space ports. â€
Previous accomplishments by Masten Space Systems include winning Level 2 and placing in level 1 flights of NASAâ€™s Lunar Lander Challenge in 2009 and the first demonstration of an in-air relight of a Vertical Take-off/Vertical Landing rocket last May. Masten has completed more than 70 successful flights to date on two prototype RLVs.
â€œWe are thrilled to have Masten looking at Floridaâ€™s Space Coast,â€ stated Space Florida President Frank DiBello. â€œWe view companies like Masten as the catalysts for innovation in our stateâ€™s aerospace economy. There is significant potential for their launch vehicles to provide a valuable platform for commercial research and development, and we look forward to working with them to explore that potential here in Florida.â€
Minimal construction would be necessary to prepare SLC-36 for Masten demonstration launches, according to Space Florida Spaceport Operations leadership. â€œEverything about our vehicle feeds directly into low-cost operations with minimal infrastructure,â€ said Dave Masten. â€œWe require a small concrete pad and have optimized vehicle operations for a five person team.â€
The last recorded launch at SLC-36 was in February 2005, when an Atlas 3B launched a classified NRO payload off of pad 36B.
Space Florida and Masten are at the forefront of the emerging commercial space market. Both organizations share a commitment to reducing the cost of launch and enabling increased access to space. â€œItâ€™s great to find ourselves on the same path and weâ€™re looking forward to exploring opportunities in Florida,â€ offered Masten.
About Masten Space Systems: Masten Space Systems is a Mojave, CA based aerospace company developing fully reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) launch vehicles, rocket-related products, and engineering services. The companyâ€™s 6000 square foot production facility and 200,000 square foot testing facility is located on the Mojave Air and Space Port. The company uses rapid prototyping to design and build aerospace solutions that focus on durability, long operational lifetimes, and minimal per-flight maintenance. http://www.masten-space.com
About Space Florida: Space Florida was created to strengthen Floridaâ€™s position as the global leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce. As Floridaâ€™s aerospace development organization, we are committed to attracting and expanding the next generation of space industry businesses. With its highly trained workforce, proven infrastructure and unparalleled record of achievement, Florida is the ideal location for aerospace businesses to thrive â€“ and Space Florida is the perfect partner to help them succeed. www.spaceflorida.gov.