An announcement from Masten Space Systems and Space Florida:
Masten Space Systems and Space Florida Sign Letter of Intent: Demonstration Launch at SLC-36 Targeted for 2011
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (November 22, 2010) – 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.
“We have been looking at Florida as a launch option for some time now,” stated Masten Founder and CEO Dave Masten. “We 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.”
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.
Masten’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. “We’ve had interest from many researchers, scientists, and engineers,” said Colin Ake, Masten’s Director of Business Development. “We look forward to conducting regular flight operations in the near future, including using suborbital flights as a quality assurance ‘checkout’ for experiments bound for the International Space Station.”
Masten currently develops its vehicles and carries out flight tests in Mojave, CA. “As our vehicles near completion, we’re searching for the ideal launch location from which to base our flight operations team,” said Michael Mealling, Masten’s CFO. “While 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.”
Previous accomplishments by Masten Space Systems include winning Level 2 and placing in level 1 flights of NASA’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.
“We are thrilled to have Masten looking at Florida’s Space Coast,” stated Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “We view companies like Masten as the catalysts for innovation in our state’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.”
Minimal construction would be necessary to prepare SLC-36 for Masten demonstration launches, according to Space Florida Spaceport Operations leadership. “Everything about our vehicle feeds directly into low-cost operations with minimal infrastructure,” said Dave Masten. “We require a small concrete pad and have optimized vehicle operations for a five person team.”
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. “It’s great to find ourselves on the same path and we’re looking forward to exploring opportunities in Florida,” offered Masten.