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Sunday, 23 December 2007

Prototype Moon Lander Takes Test Flight

A privately-built moon lander prototype lifted off on a test flight Thursday during a successful check of its propulsion system.

The Poway, Calif.-based firm, SpaceDev, launched the lunar lander prototype approximately 35 feet (10.7 meters) into the air on a tether, where it hovered before descending for a careful landing. The test represents the first ever for a hybrid rocket powered lander vehicle.

SpaceDev is working with the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) to ultimately land a spacecraft on the south pole of the Moon for astrophysics and communication research.

"This is an exciting project that has shown not only the versatility of our hybrid motors, but also SpaceDev's high levels of responsiveness and efficiency," said Mark Sirangelo, SpaceDev's chairman and CEO, in a statement. "We see many important applications for our throttleable rockets, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with ILOA as well as our research and development of lander vehicles."

The lander prototype has four hybrid rocket motors that contain both solid and liquid fuel — a combination of non-explosive materials that supposedly reduces the chance for accidents. The liquid fuel also permits throttling by controlling fuel flow and acceleration.

SpaceDev previously worked with Mojave, Calif.'s Scaled Composites to produce the reusable hybrid rocket motor that launched SpaceShipOne, the privately-developed, piloted spacecraft that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.



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