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Space Transportation Science

Masten and Armadillo Perform First VTVL Restarts 94

FleaPlus writes "Recently Masten Aerospace, winner of NASA's 2009 Lunar Lander Challenge, demonstrated using its Xombie vehicle the first-ever mid-flight restart of a VTVL (vertical-takeoff vertical-landing) rocket, a critical capability for the emerging suborbital/microgravity science and passenger markets (video from ground). Not to be outdone, John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace (winner of the 2008 Lunar Lander Challenge) flew its Mod rocket to 2,000 feet (610m), deployed a drogue parachute, and then restarted the engine to land (multi-view video showing John Carmack at the controls)."
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Masten and Armadillo Perform First VTVL Restarts

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  • Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkKnightRadick ( 268025 ) <> on Monday June 07, 2010 @07:50PM (#32490722) Homepage Journal

    I would venture to say that this is definitely a win for private-sector aerospace. (:

  • Very Impressive (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2010 @08:00PM (#32490794)

    This is incredibly impressive.. the craft is very unstable when the drogue chute deploys but Carmack's software is smart enough to level out just with thrust vectoring (*not* easy to do, especially when you are subject to the varying conditions of our atmosphere).

  • Re:Two Words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by georgewilliamherbert ( 211790 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @09:55PM (#32491528)

    The instability was due to the dynamics of the drogue parachute, which was intended to ensure that the vehicle didn't turn upside down due to air drag before the engine lit. It did that but the length of the parachute harness ended up being such that the vehicle moved unsteadily at that descent rate.

    That's a minor problem and easy to fix, with a different length harness or other aerodynamics.

    With a vehicle which was aerodynamically stable going down base first, it wouldn't be a problem either. That particular test craft (and Masten's similar one) will probably turn and fall nose-first if they fall any significant distance. These are low altitude test rockets, not the final high speed high altitude models, so some problems appear with these models that will be engineered out of the final models.

    You fix those short-term problems with the most cheap and reliable band-aid you can, since you're planning on a different airframe as the long term fix. The parachute was the band-aid. Not a perfect band-aid, but an acceptable one.

  • Re:You missed it. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2010 @10:17PM (#32491708)

    Yup. We all know! The lunar lander stage did a restart indeed.

    But that's a *lander* stage. It was never claimed first lander to do a restart because that's not true. That's like saying a Soyuz is a VTVL because the capsule fires rockets on landing, or that the Mars propulsive landers are VTVLs because they take off from Earth and land on Mars. In fact, those have been re-starts too since the Viking. LOL.

    So yeah, first two VTVLs to do in-air restart.

  • Re:Just a step... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <[ten.orezten] [ta] [gninroh_trebor]> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @07:52AM (#32494300) Homepage Journal

    The problem with the NASA specs is that they have been written in such a way that only the "selected contractors" can actually meet those specs. That is unfortunately something incredibly common in government procurement circles, where often the contractors themselves write their own procurement contracts (I know.... I've helped to write some of them!) If you write the regulations or specifications in such a way that there can only possibly be one bidder on the contract, you can hardly call it a competitive bid. BTW, I've written spec contracts for government agencies for both small purchases... in once case for a single desktop PC... and for multi-million dollar capital purchases.

    I'm not saying that all spaceflight specs are bad, but there certainly are some asinine regulations that do more harm than good and are mostly there to justify the salaries of the regulators and inspectors involved... and sometimes those regulations are there to scratch the back of a close personal friend and not necessarily to "protect the public". When those who wrote those regulations leave, sometimes it is incredibly hard to figure out even why some regulations were created in the first place. If they are created for political reasons, often there will be absolutely no commentary at all or "paper trail" to try and find out why they exist and are hard to cull out too.

    This is also a problem in private industry to a smaller degree (for petty corruption among middle managers) but government agencies tend to take it to a much higher level.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.