MOJAVE — A modest-sized aerospace company based at Mojave Air and Space Port earned two new multi-million contracts from NASA in its mission to send the next people to the moon.
Masten Space Systems announced the NASA contracts in a news release Oct. 21 as part of the federal agency’s Artemis Project, paid from the Tipping Point award and totaling $12.8 million.
“We are excited to see such an auspicious group of Tipping Point awards this year,” said Masten CEO Sean Mahoney in the release. “It’s an honor to be in such great company with all these amazing awards as NASA’s forward-looking Space Technology Mission Directorate steps up to fund the private companies who are producing out-of-the-box innovations that will take America back to the Moon, to stay.”
The news of the two awards follows NASA’s decision to contract the rocket company to deliver nine payloads to the Moon’s south pole by December 2022. The contract is worth $76 million, and Masten announced in August it had selected SpaceX to launch the payloads.
NASA allocated the money for two of Masten’s projects, according to the company.
The first award is for Masten’s Metal Oxidation Warming System (MOWS), developed in partnership with Pennsylvania State University, as a chemical heating solution to help spacecraft survive in sunlight-deprived lunar environments.
The second award will fund Masten’s completion of a ”state-of-the-art aerospace testbed, named Xogdor, to provide the industry an updated flight test analog for critical Artemis technologies.”
Masten was one of 14 companies to receive Tipping Point awards. A private-public government funding source, the Tipping Point program “combine NASA resources with an industry contribution of at least 25% of the program costs, shepherding the development of critical space technologies while also saving the agency, and American taxpayers, money,” according to NASA.
“This is the most Tipping Point proposals NASA has selected at once and by far the largest collective award value,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Technology Jim Reuter in the news release. “We are excited to see our investments and collaborative partnerships bring about new technologies for the Moon and beyond while also benefiting the commercial sector.”
The MOWS project would provide new chemical heating technologies essential to lunar bases housed in the moon’s shaded areas, where temperatures can plummet to negative-200 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the news release, “MOWS employs moderate-temperature chemical reactions for thermal control with order-of-magnitude greater specific energy than battery-based approaches.”
The technology would provide manned and robotic missions with an invaluable tool for extended forays on the lunar surface.
MOWS technology benefits both NASA and commercial missions as it significantly expands the scope of lunar exploration missions,” said Masten chief engineer Matthew Kuhns in the news release. “The ability to survive the lunar night extends mission durations beyond the current capability of around 14 days, allowing missions at least six weeks, two lunar days and one lunar night, and possibly longer, greatly increasing our capacity to perform more science, operate customer payloads, and reduce risk for future Artemis missions on the Moon.”
The Xogdor vehicle project, according to Masten, will be matured to operational status for “testing aerospace technologies in a relevant flight environment” over a three-year period.
According to the Masten news release, the effort “will support risk reduction of technologies through flight testing in pursuit of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars campaign with a focus on building an Entry, Descent, Landing (or EDL) test capability for near-term lunar missions.”
Xogdor is Masten’s sixth reusable rocket vehicle in a line of platforms that have seen over 600 successful vertical takeoff and landing flights in 15 years.
“Xogdor is poised to become the industry’s state-of-the-art testing analog with performance capabilities far exceeding those of currently available EDL testbeds,” said Masten CTO, Dave Masten.