SpaceX's Reusable Grasshopper Reaches Record Height

SpaceX's Reusable Grasshopper Reaches Record Height

The final test of the experimental reusable launch vehicle sees the rocket soar over 2,000 feet, an altitude higher than any of its previous flights.

Disposable multi-stage rockets continue to be the most frequently used vehicle to launch cargo into space. The most famous incarnation being the Saturn V rockets that carried the Apollo missions into orbit. These launches cost millions of dollars and are seen by some as wasteful, given that the rocket is designed to break off and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. This is one of the many reasons that lead to the introduction of the reusable Space Shuttle, which has since been retired. It seems SpaceX believes that reusable launch vehicles are still worth pursuing as it has recently carried out its final test on its new vertical take-off and landing launch vehicle, the Grasshopper v1.0, reporting a new record breaking height for the craft.

The Grasshopper is a 10-story high, sub-orbital launch vehicle designed to serve as the first stage of a multi-stage launch system. It is unique in its design by not only being reusable but also being the first launch vehicle to land vertically after take-off. The version 1.0 Grasshopper is built from a Falcon 9 first stage fuel tank, a Merlin-1D engine and four landing legs which provide structural stability. This first iteration of the Grasshopper achieved an altitude of around 820 feet in its initial testing in 2011 before making its final voyage last week where it doubled its previous flight test to reach an altitude of 2,000 feet. This was recorded close up via a high-definition camera mounted on a remotely operated hexacopter (video). According to SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, the Grasshopper rocket is capable of performing a successful landing with the accuracy of a helicopter.

Grasshopper v1.0's final flight lasted 80 seconds and the rocket will now be retired. It is set to be replaced by the new and improved Grasshopper v1.1. This new incarnation is set to feature the Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage fuel tank, which is over double the height of its v1.0 predecessor. It will also boast a compliment of nine Merlin-1D engines over the v1.0's single engine and will feature retractable landing legs for better aerodynamics in reaching higher altitudes.

A standard Falcon 9 launch today costs $54 million, with $200,000 allocated for fuel. The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which flies only once. It's easy to see why the accountants at SpaceX have their fingers crossed for future research into the Grasshopper launch vehicle.

Source: Space X via The Telegraph

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While I am a little leery of the privatization of spaceflight, I do like that they are at least trying to be a little more economical. Who knows, maybe they can get into collaboration with NASA.

Thanks to this article I now understand the point of the grasshopper.
As I learned in kerbal space program, an astonishing amount of fuel is used to reach the first 6 km of altitude. A reusable suborbital could get up to a high enough vantage point to launch higher stages would save a buttload of moolah.

uchytjes:
While I am a little leery of the privatization of spaceflight, I do like that they are at least trying to be a little more economical. Who knows, maybe they can get into collaboration with NASA.

This is actually the entire point of the company. SpaceX already has satellite launch and ISS resupply mission contracts and has started to meet their requirements. 2 of 13 successful resupplies so far?

If you are interested in this search skylon, british project developing a jet engine that can take off conventionally from an airfield, fly at extremely high speeds, and once at altitude converts to rocket engines to power the next stage of flight into orbit.

So its a development of the shuttle idea but estimated to be something like 400 times safer and MUCH cheaper.

looks like Richard Branson has been playing KSP doesn't it?

vallorn:
looks like Richard Branson has been playing KSP doesn't it?

Wrong company.

uchytjes:
While I am a little leery of the privatization of spaceflight

I'm not. It's not like the government cares about the people. And they don't seem to care about the space program either. So it's good to have someone like Elon Musk who does care. He's not doing this for the money. He's one of those guys who want to change the world for the better. He really loves what he does and he's awesome at it.

vallorn:
looks like Richard Branson has been playing KSP doesn't it?

It's actually Elon Musk of Tesla fame.

Kleft:
If you are interested in this search skylon, british project developing a jet engine that can take off conventionally from an airfield, fly at extremely high speeds, and once at altitude converts to rocket engines to power the next stage of flight into orbit.

So its a development of the shuttle idea but estimated to be something like 400 times safer and MUCH cheaper.

Sadly, the Skylon has managed to secure very little of its necessary research funding.

 

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