Video: Dave Masten Talks 3D Printing Rocket Engines

Video Caption: This week we bring on guest Dave Masten to get an update of the happenings at Masten Space Systems. In addition to an update on the XS-1 project, we also talk about how Dave and crew is using additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create entire rocket engines. Interview starts at 16:59

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Masten makes a lot of cool stuff, I get super excited every time they tweet pictures of what they’ve been working on. I’ve long felt they, like XCOR (rest in peace), could do a better job of advertising their capabilities. But it seems they prefer their secrecy – they seem to be just fine living on DARPA project and NASA SBIRs that they’re not allowed to talk about. I wonder if they’ll get acquired by a dinospace company as kind of a Skunk Works job shop – kind of like what NG did with Scaled.

    Masten, if you’re listening, I’m really intrigued by this idea of cradle landings – maybe that along with the Xaero crash footage, could be your next blog post?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    The cradle did sound interesting – nice to know that more than SpaceX are actively working on such ideas.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Masten was first on this along with VTVL with legs within NewSpace crowd. Great technology incubation company. SpaceX turns around and says to itself, if Masten can do it at x scale we can do it at y scale.

  • windbourne

    huh. Really?
    I would have thought that Armadillo, who had been doing VTVL in 2001, BEFORE Masten even CONSIDERED getting into hardware, would be first.

  • windbourne

    ???
    What is a cradle landing?

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Yup, you’re right. That one slipped my mind since their reboot isn’t in the VTVL business anymore it would seem.

  • windbourne

    huh.
    It just dawned on me.
    SX was going to build red dragon that would go to mars and bring a load of equipment. then dragon could be used on other surfaces for landing, etc.
    BUT, SX called it quits.

    Maybe Masten should jump on this, and create a vehicle for putting say 2-3 tonnes on the Moon, Mars, Europa, cold side of Mercury, etc. If they have this right, I would think that NASA would love a single tested system that can land on all of these places and put a couple of tonnes of equipment on the surface.

  • windbourne

    just being snarky 🙂

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    They dispense with the landing gear (legs or what have you) and their GNC system lands the into a cradle that catches it. SpaceX showed something similar for MCT booster, and I think Kistler had a similar video a long time ago. I’ll find links.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Here’s Kistler’s thing:
    https://youtu.be/x-YiLEaIvvA?t=89

    And here’s Elon’s idea:
    https://youtu.be/0qo78R_yYFA?t=111

    Cradle being a generic term for whatever ground infrastructure “catches” the booster.

  • IamGrimalkin

    Red Dragon wouldn’t have worked on mercury, europa, or the moon. It doesn’t have enough Δv, on mars most of the Δv is supposed to be taken up by the atmosphere.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    really?

    The reason SpaceX have decided against RedDragon is not really the”landing” on Mars, but the entry and descent. Masten are nowhere near putting 2-3 tonnes on the martian surface. Sub-scale ITS will be able to put substantial payload on Mars…and the Moon.
    I like what Masten have done / are doing, but getting into lunar orbit and down to the surface with a few kilograms is orders of magnitude easier than all those other surfaces that just dawned on you.
    Of course, SpaceX could still contrive to delay themselves as usual, but putting 3 tonnes on any surface other than the Moon will not happen this side of a 10 billion dollar development budget.

  • IamGrimalkin

    Masten is wanting to put more than just a few kg on the moon’s surface. Centaur XEUS has a dry mass of 2 tonnes, its payload mass should be more than that. You’re right it couldn’t land on those other bodies though: all the propellant would have boiled off before it gets there.

    ACES XEUS, meanwhile, is stated to land 25 tonnes on the Lunar surface; and could probably land on Europa or Mercury if put in the right orbits, but couldn’t land on mars.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I’m still not entirely clear on how the Centaur XEUS would get to orbit, or get to the Moon with fuel, or with payload. Also, not sure how ACES, or any XEUS variant is going to get refuelled – perhaps I wasn’t paying attention when Masten gave all those details.
    I have a sneaking suspicion that these ideas to convert a second stage into a reusable spaceship, will end up being no less expensive than the SpaceX plan of making a spaceship into a second stage. Seems to me that extending the use of a second stage as a beyond orbit spaceship is built on the premise of expensive launch costs – which also equates to expensive on orbit refuelling.

  • IamGrimalkin

    Well obviously it would be taken to orbit by a rocket, I don’t see why that is difficult.

    ACES is built to be refuelled, so XEUS ACES will presumably be refuelable too. Although I would imagine the electrolysis of the water would be done by a separate system XEUS carries as payload. Regardless, XEUS probably won’t require refuelling to do sample returns.

    It doesn’t assume a high cost to orbit: it assumes a high development cost. Retrofitting an existing stage to work as a moon lander should be cheaper than developing a new one. There is no way with Centaur XEUS (which is almost developed anyway) or ACES XEUS will cost $10 billion to develop, and I’m skeptical of that figure. Amongst other reasons, development cost is a function of how long it takes to develop, and no-one believes Elon Musk’s timetables apart from Elon Musk.

    (As a side note, making a spaceship a second stage has already been done: that’s pretty much what the shuttle is).

  • windbourne

    Europa should have had absolutely zero issues landing on Europa. Simply slow down using Jupiter , then land.
    And, claiming that it will take 10 billion would be if old space was doing it. Masten already has software that works. They have tested scaled hardware. What is needed is to scale up on hardware. If needed, they could buy engines from rocketdyne who would happily work with masten to make this work.
    And with FH to send it, it is possible for all.

    Cost will be less than SX doing F1 or F9, which was , IIRC, $1B. This is esp true since masten is already so far ahead.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    http://masten.aero/vehicles-2/xeus/
    Maybe I’m unduly worried, but that external structure looks a bit of an aerodynamic concern.

    I’m not bothered about on orbit refuelling – all futures will require that – I’m questioning the cost of those droves of expendable first and second stages needed to loft the fuel for these plans.

    I pulled the $10 billion figure out of my ass, to make the point of the high cost of developing any architecture capable of travelling across the solar system to deliver many tonnes to any given surface. I agree that development cost of a land and stay lunar delivery craft should be far less – but such system, with that sort of limited capability and reuse, would surely be unsustainable.

  • IamGrimalkin

    Oh, that’s why you put it in a fairing when going up. The XEUS isn’t designed to land on bodies with significant atmospheres.

    There’s no particular reason the rocket that launches the XEUS will have to be expendable (although really, reusable is always cheaper than expendable hasn’t been proved to be true yet: the expendable Proton and PSLV are still cheaper than SpaceX’s reusable vehicles). ULA like to do presentations showing XEUS being launched by the 1st stage partially expendable Vulcan, but there is not particular reason it can’t be launched by any other rocket with the neccessary payload. I can’t imagine ULA will refuse to sell Masten Centaurs/ACESs just because they aren’t the automatic launch provider.

    Are you Elon Musk? The $10 billion figure I cited was referring to the stated ITS development cost by SpaceX.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    I miss those guys. Exos invited the public to watch a tether test of Sarge, but it got cancelled because of after effects from Harvey. I was going to make a road trip up to see it, but I don’t think they’ve rescheduled yet.

  • publiusr

    Looks like it is asking to lbelly flop on a big rock that will stove in its underside.