Xodiac and Xaero B

Masten Space Systems is quietly making a name for itself, with the release of some pretty slick videos of their new reusable rockets Xodiac and Xaero B, which show the craft hovering with remarkable stability and making precise landings.

While not nearly as large as their bigger reusable orbital and sub-orbital brethren manufactured by SpaceX and Blue Origin, the Masten offerings are nevertheless very efficient and capable machines, with a host of potential applications.

The new rockets are VTVL (vertical takeoff, vertical landing) craft, and have a very quick turnaround time—the video indicates the machines are reused five times within a span of a little over an hour.

The Xaero B is named after its precursor craft, Xaero, which was destroyed during a 2013 mission.  It’s about one meter (3 feet) taller than its predecessor, standing at about 4.5 meters (15 feet) tall, and uses a closed-shell design for payload protection.  The Xodiac is similar, though with an open-shell design.

Getting Around in Space

Masten Space Systems, which was founded in 2004, is a NASA-contracted rocket company concentrating for the time being on science experiments in suborbital space, but with loftier ambitions.

Tether-flight of the Xaero B. Credit: Masten Space Systems
Tether-flight of the Xaero B. Credit: Masten Space Systems

Perhaps the most intriguing applications for their innovative rocket designs is the maneuverability they confer upon in-space activities and, especially, movement on low-gravity planets and asteroids.  Imagine, for instance, a spacecraft capable of landing at multiple sites on Mars; after exploring a particular landing site, the machine could take off and travel with precision maneuvering to another location.

The same technology, of course, could be applied to spacecraft on the Moon, asteroids, even Venus or the moons of the Outer Planets.  So an interesting use for the Xodiac and Xaero B rockets is for private scientific payloads and research probes to the planets—formerly the exclusive purview of governmental organizations.

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