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Space Transport News Special Edition:
Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge 2009 Resources
Reports, photos, videos and more

Armadillo Aerospace Super Mod vehicle - photo by Will Pomerantz
(Photo credit: William Pomerantz)
Armadillo Aerospace's SuperMod vehicles flies into a cloudy sky on
September 12th in Texas in the team's successful attempt to qualify
for the $1 Million purse in the NGLLC Level II competition.

Unlike previous years, the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge competition for 2009 requires entrants to carry out their flights at a date and place of their choosing. Four teams registered for the contest:

This page provides various web resources for their flights.

Award ceremony in Washington DC on Nov. 5th.
L-R: Doug Comstock (NASA Innovative Partnerships), Dave Masten (Masten Space),
Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator), Peter Diamandis (X PRIZE Foundation),
Phil Eaton (Armadillo Aerospace), Mitch Waldman (Northrop Grumman)

Official Results

This video - Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge Flight Highlights -
was shown at the NGLLC awards ceremony in Washington D.C. on Nov.5, 2009.


Oct. 30-31, 2009 - Friday, Saturday
Nov.1, 2009 - Sunday
Unreasonable Rocket - Level I & Level II
F.A.R. test site at Cantil, CA.

Unreasonable Rocket flight on Saturday afternoon, October 31th.
(X PRIZE Youtube channel )

Unreasonable Rocket will attempt the Level I flights with their Blue Ball vehicle. They have the Silver Ball vehicle for Level II.

They had several major problems with the Silver Ball vehicle in the week leading up to the event, a leak in the peroxide tank was especially serious, that repeatedly led them to believe they had no chance to compete in Level II. However, after a tremendous effort by the team that included many long days and nights of work, they had vehicles ready to compete in both events.

The extra flight window for Masten Space on the morning of Friday Oct. 30th, meant that Unreasonable's first Level I flight would be on Friday afternoon.

Oct.30: The team had a Level I window in the late afternoon. However, the Blue Ball vehicle failed to get more than a meter or two off the ground in two attempts. Both times the vehicle displayed severe wobbling and sideways translation across the pad. The first time it fell over. The suspicion is that the distribution of the required 25 kilograms of payload is causing control problems. The vehicle is quick to refuel and reset and they wanted to try another liftoff. However, some damage was discovered and they decided to wait till the next morning.

Oct.31: New catalyst packs were installed overnight on the Blue Ball vehicle. Tests in the morning indicated that the peroxide had become cold in the night air and so they decided to let it warm up and wait to fly in the afternoon. After debugging some GPS issues, they made a flight in the late afternoon. The flight seemed to go fine until the hover above the landing pad ended abruptly 5 seconds too early when the fuel ran out. The damage from the fall was not too serious but bad enought to kill any chance of being fix within the available window.

That ended their Level I effort. They will attempt Level II on Sunday Nov.1st.

Nov. 1st: Unreasonable decided to do some tethered testing before making its Level II attempt with the Silver Ball vehicle. Unfortunately, in the final test the vehicle experience oscillations and gyrations that broke the tether and the vehicle was badly damaged. That ended their Level II effort.

Unreasonable Rocket liftoff attempt on Friday afternoon, October 30th. (X PRIZE Youtube channel )

Nov. 1: A slow motion video by Ben Brokert of the final tethered test of Silver Ball:

Silver Ball tether test Nov.1:


A Silver Ball tether test in the week before the event:


Oct. 28-29, 2009 - Wednesday & Thursday
Oct. 30, 2009 - Friday Morning
Masten Space Systems - Level II
Mojave Spaceport

Oct.28: Masten Space Systems attempted the Level II flights with their Xoie (XA0.1e) vehicle on Oct. 28th but communication problems between the on-board flight controller and the ground system caused them to abort twice and then forfeit the attempt for the day.

Oct.29 Another attempt was made on Oct. 29th and the vehicle aborted during the first window due to fuel line clogging. The first flight in the afternoon flight went well till just after the landing when a fire erupted around the base of the engine. The fire was limited but the damage was sufficient to make it imossible to repair within the remaining time in the competition window.

Oct.30: Following the Oct. 29th flight and subsequent fire, Masten Space requested that the NGLLC judges and management give them another window for a Level II round on the followiing morning (Oct. 30th). After several hours of deliberations, the judges decided to give them this opportunity. (This later drew a protest from John Carmack.) In the meantime, the Masten team, along with several volunteers, spent the night repairing the vehicle from the fire damage and prepare it for the morning flights. The first flight was briefly delayed to check a sensor problem but then went without incident. The second liftoff was delayed due to a problem with the igniter but eventually it flew without a problem. There was only 6 minutes remaining on the clock to safe and load the vehicle but they got it on the trailer with a minute or two to spare.

The landing accuracy was in the 15cm range for both landings and so the Masten team took first place in the Level II competition from Armadillo. Unreasonable Rocket has a chance also to do take first or second place.

Oct.30: Robin Snelson shows how the Masten Space NGLLC effort looked from the spectator section:

Oct. 29th flight of Masten Space Xoie vehicle (X PRIZE Youtube channel):

Oct. 29th Flght: A video showing Xoie as it hovers for a minute or so, lands and then a
brief transient of flames from the engine during shutdown causes a fire around
the base of the engine:

Oct. 7, 2009 - Wednesday
Masten Space Systems - Level I
Mojave Spaceport

In Masten's first attempt at the Level I event on Sept. 16, an engine problem on the XA0.1B-750 vehicle (nicknamed Xombie) prevented them from flying the second leg of the required two 90 second flights. So they decided to wait till their next competition window on Oct. 7-8 while they fixed the engine in the meantime. On the Oct. 7th they successfully carried out both Level I flights and qualified for the $150k prize.

"Average landing accuracy for the two flights was 16cm (6.3 inches) from the target on each pad."

Masten Space XA0.1E in NGLLC
(Photo credit: William Pomerantz)
Xoie (i.e. XA0.1E) coming in for a landing during the NGLLC round on Oct. 7th.

A video of both flights from Orbital Expeditions:

First flight leg from on board camera looking outward:

First flight leg from on board camera looking downward:

Second flight leg from on board camera looking outward:

Second flight leg from on board camera looking downward:

Sept. 16, 2009 - Wednesday
Masten Space Systems - Level I
Mojave Spaceport

Masten Space Systems made their first attempt at the NGLLC Level I on Sept.16th. The
initial flight leg was successful but an engine problem was detected and they canceled the
second leg of the two flight event. They decided to fix the problem and try again in the next 2-day window on Oct. 6-7.

Sample of Videos

On board cameras - first view looking down, then side view providing tour of the Mojave landscape:


View from ground looking up as Xombie flies overhead:


Sept.12, 2009 - Saturday
Armadillo Aerospace - Level 2
Caddo Mills, Texas

First flight by Armadillo Aerospace

Armadillo Aerospace flew both legs of the Level 2 competition on a rainy, cloudy day near their facility at the Caddo Mills airport in Texas. The rain stop long enough to to complete the flights and qualify for the Level 2 prizes, which include $1M for first place and $500k for second. They have to wait till the end of October to see if the other teams can also complete the Level II flights and beat the landing accuracy of Armadillo.






The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG


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