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SpaceX Sends Grasshopper Ever Higher

Video courtesy of SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) “Grasshopper” reusable launch vehicle has achieved a major milestone, one that the NewSpace firm hopes could mark a new age in space exploration efforts. On December 17, 2012, the Grasshopper rocket lifted off into the skies above SpaceX’s test facilities located in McGregor, Texas.

The flight saw the rocket rise 131 feet (40 meters) into the air; it then hovered and touched safely back down on the ground. The test lasted just under half a minute with a total duration of 29 seconds.

This is an increase in both the length of time aloft as well as the height that the Grasshopper has managed to achieve. In a previous test flight, conducted this September, Grasshopper reached a height of 1.8 meters (6 feet); two months later it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet), which included a brief hover.

Video courtesy of SpaceX

SpaceX has successive test flights planned for Grasshopper in the coming months.

According to a press release issued by SpaceX, Grasshopper stands some 10 stories tall and has been dubbed a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL) by SpaceX. The rocket has four landing legs, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage, a Merlin 1D rocket engine, and the required steel support structure to hold the craft together.

2 comments to SpaceX Sends Grasshopper Ever Higher

  • Bob

    Anyone…
    what is the point of doing controlled hops off the ground when the real test is the controlled descent from the upper atmosphere with high cross winds and bad weather…What am I missing?

  • Neil

    Well Bob, it’s called incremental testing. You test in small stages so that you can work out the bugs along the way. If you try to do the whole thing in one go and something goes wrong, you won’t really know what that was since it may have been one or a number of things. Also if you crash and burn early on, it’s likely to cost way less than crash and burning the complete vehicle.
    Hope that helps.