May 19, 2017

AEROCOMM holds monthly meeting at Mojave Air & Space Port

Linda KC Reynolds
staff writer

Erik Franks, (far left) operations manager for Masten Space Systems Inc., shares the XA-0.1b rocket “Xombie” with AEROCOMM members and special guest Dick Rutan (far right) during an AEROCOMM monthly meeting. Masten Space Systems Inc. has 22 employees and specializes in building and launching reusable rockets.

AEROCOMM, an aerospace defense industry and base support committee with its foundation in the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, recently held its monthly meeting at Mojave Air and Space Port.

The group had a special treat when Erik Franks, operations manager for Masten Space Systems Inc., showed them the XA-0.1b rocket nicknamed “Xombie” and another rocket, “Xodiack.”

Masten Space Systems develops a line of reusable VTVL (vertical takeoff and landing) rockets and related rocket propulsion hardware.

“Before you test something in outer space, it is tested on Earth,” said Franks. Masten works with NASA, JPL and other companies and organizations to test rockets that launch various payloads. Working with new technology that will help rockets avoid landing on rocks and unstable surfaces, Masten is working with NASA to improve technology that will help to land a spacecraft on Mars in 2020.

It costs approximately $10,000 per pound to launch into outer space, so Masten is working on lightweight designs, shifting payloads away from the top of rockets, and using less expensive propellants to lower costs.

After the tour, AEROCOMM members discussed their latest visit to Washington, D.C.

“We had great synergy in many of our meetings,” said Allen Hoffman of Boeing. The group’s representatives talked to many politicians and staff members about the importance of aerospace, not only for the Antelope Valley but for the United States.

“We may seem like we are in competition with other aerospace companies, but when it comes to defense and keeping jobs in California and the United States, we are all on the same team,” assured Hoffman. Other states and countries are reaching out to aerospace companies and promising enormous incentives to move out of California.

The team said they had great support from Congressman Steve Knight, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and William McClellan “Mac” Thornberry, U.S. Representative from Texas and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, while in the nation’s capital. Focusing most of their discussions on aerospace, national security, and education, the group visited other U.S. representatives, California’s two U.S. senators, and NASA Headquarters.

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