Draper labs has released this video of a test flight by Masten Space Systems earlier this month in Mojave. A Draper guidance, navigation and control package on top of Masten’s XOMBIE vehicle guides it through launch, rocket-powered hover, downrange flight, and touchdown 150 feet from the launch pad.
Imagine you’re standing on the moon, watching the daily cargo rocket arrive. It might look like this. Actually, it will probably look more like Masten’s planned XEUS vehicle, an image of which Masten Space Systems director of business operations Nathan O’Konek has shared with me.
Masten is putting together a demonstration system built around a United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage rocket and its single RL-10 engine.
Four Masten 3,500 pound thrust propulsion modules will bring the ship in for a horizontal touchdown without the high velocity dust plumes kicked up by the big guy.
Dust will be a major concern to people living and working on the moon. Even without blowing around, it can be damaging to spacesuits, machinery, and other equipment. Another advantage of this design is that cargo can be unloaded near the ground, without relying on tall ladders or a crane.
Update: O’Konek points out that “The dispersed engines will help mitigate the plume problem, but they won’t be able to eliminate plume effects completely.”