On Tuesday Masten Space System’s Xaero vehicle took to the skies and achieved a new milestone for the company: the highest flight yet by a Masten vehicle. Xaero took off from the company’s test pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port and flew to an altitude of 444 meters before landing on the 75-second flight (timing based on the video above). That flight was the highest by a Masten vehicle to date as the company prepares for even higher-altitude flights in the coming months as both part of its suborbital vehicle development effort and to perform flights for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
The Masten blog post about the Xaero flight also pointed out a couple of other changes with Xaero. One clear one is the shift from deployable landing legs to a fixed set. “[T]hey looked cool, but they were too complex and took too long to replace for the flight rate we’d like to achieve,” the company noted in the post, adding the fixed legs also save about seven kilograms of vehicle mass. They have also been working to improve the vehicle’s guidance and control system “to get Xaero flying to our satisfaction.”
This was the first Xaero flight by Masten (at least publicized by the company) for a while, but they promise “we have plans to continue to expand the envelope in the near future.”