The US-based rocket system developer, Masten Space Systems, lost its Xaero suborbital launch and landing vehicle on 11 September after it crashed during a test flight at the Mojave spaceport in California. The craft was coming in to land after a flight to above 3,000 feet when it experenced oscillatons during its powered descent. This led to a loss of control and the craft was destroyed in the ensuing crash.. The cause of the failure has not been confirmed, however a throttle valve failure is strongly suspected. Masten Space Systems was already building a second Xaero rocket which will replace the crashed craft.
Masten's Xaero is one of several small reusable launch systems being developed to carry small experiments and technology payloads on brief sub-orbital space flights under NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which is managed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards. Under a $250,000 NASA contract, Masten is required to perform four demonstration flights of its vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing spacecraft, two to about 16,000 feet altitude and two to almost 100,000 feet altitude.
Masten's Xaero craft during an ealier flight test. Courtesy: NASA