Previously, the Lunar Lion had completed a series of preliminary rocket tests (dubbed “Phase 0”) with the objective of creating established procedures and guidelines for all subsequent rocket tests. This time around, the team tested the actual NASA “pencil thruster” that will be used to maneuver the Lunar Lion moon rover in space, using a liquid oxygen and ethanol fuel that is a close simulation of the rocket fuel that will be used on launch day.
This successful “hot fire” — dubbed “Phase 1” by the Lunar Lion — represents significant progress toward the team’s goal of becoming the first privately-funded effort to land on the moon, ever, for a shot at $20 million in prize money via the Google Lunar X Prize competition. Because of these successful “Phase 1” tests, that goal jumps from a possibility to a reality, according to the Lunar Lion’s Michael Policelli, who leads the project’s propulsion team.
“Analysis and computer code can only get you so far — in the end rockets are required to actually land on the moon,” says Policelli. “This test marks an important milestone along of the way from ‘PowerPoint engineering’ to building a working spacecraft.”
Embedded below is a video of the Lunar Lion’s first successful “hot fire”: