Aerospace startup Masten Space Systems just introduced two new additions to the company's long line of reusable rockets and landers. The vehicles are called Xaero-B and Xodiac, continuing the company's tradition of assigning X-names to its products. A new video of the rockets shows how the two prototypes can launch from the ground and then hover in place — a feat known as "station keeping." The craft can also lower down and gently land upright on the ground to be used for future flights; it's similar to how SpaceX and Blue Origin's vehicles land, but on a much, much smaller scale.
The vehicles can land vertically on very precise targets
Based out of Mojave, California, Masten Space Systems has made a name for itself making small rocket-powered landers that can take off and land vertically. The vehicles are also known for landing on very precise targets. Because of this, one of Masten's landers won a $1 million NASA-sponsored competition in 2009 for its potential as a lunar lander. None of the company's rockets have gone to space just yet, but Masten was just recently given $3 million by DARPA to develop a reusable spaceplane that can launch satellites into orbit.
In the meantime, Masten will continue to test out rocket-powered take-offs and landings with the Xaero-B and Xodiac. The company claims the Xaero-B can fly up to altitudes around 3.7 miles high. Masten will offer up the two prototypes to companies looking to test out potential space technologies on rocket-powered vehicles. These types of landers offer up a unique testing environment for companies, since they can descend very rapidly from high altitudes, unlike helicopters.