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SpaceX Grasshopper test flight successful

Posted on Monday, 14 October, 2013 | Comment icon 14 comments

The rocket is able to initiate a controlled descent back to the ground. Image Credit: SpaceX / YouTube

A remarkable new type of reusable rocket could soon revolutionize how we launch things in to space.

SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket might at first glance appear to be like any other, but what it lacks in visual uniqueness it makes up for in innovation. Unlike conventional chemical rockets, the Grasshopper will be able to launch, deliver its payload and then land again in a vertical position.

In an impressive demonstration flight this week, the rocket took off from SpaceX's test pad in McGregor, Texas and flew to a height of half a mile before returning to the ground in a controlled descent that saw it land on the exact spot from which it had launched.

While conventional first-stage rockets are simply jettisoned and can only be used once, the Grasshopper has the potential to provide a long-term reusable solution that could change the way we put things in to space.

An impressive video of the test flight taken from a remote-controlled hexacopter hovering nearby has been released online and can be viewed below.

Source: YouTube | Comments (14)

Tags: Rocket, SpaceX, Grasshopper

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by Merc14 on 14 October, 2013, 17:25
A Falcon 9 costs around $55M and the fuel to run it costs $200K so a substantial savings if you can reuse most of the machinery
Comment icon #6 Posted by keithisco on 14 October, 2013, 20:38
The question is, can the booster engine be re-used? That is in the Critical Path for cost effectiveness. Lets not forget that 744metres altitude does not equate to a re-entry burn, as ablation shielding is not required. I believe that this was just a simple Proof of Concept for the Avionics, nothing more. Apart from which the new Sabre engine is is truly designed for re-use from an HTOL viewpoint dramatically reducing the costs involved with conventional Space Delivery Systems
Comment icon #7 Posted by Merc14 on 14 October, 2013, 21:25
The vehicle shown is a proof of concept and not meant to deliver payload into orbit and there must be substantial savings possible or they wouldn't be spending the money to develop this thing. I am sure they are a few years away from this being practicable for large payloads but doing it with a 10 story rocket is pretty spectacular.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 14 October, 2013, 22:16
You seem to be making the same incorrect assumption that Leonardo is (or rather one of his incorrect assumptions as there are several but I will address that later). The Grasshopper is a test bed for a modification of the existing Falcon 9 first stage. As such this represents more than a simple proof of concept for the avionics. The Grasshopper is essentially a Falcon 9 first stage with only 1 (instead of 9) Merlin 1D engines. The next version of Grasshopper will use all 9 engines and will have legs which are folded against the rocket body at lift off and deploy for landing. Yes. The Merl... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Leonardo on 15 October, 2013, 10:46
Thanks for the additional info, Waspie. I can see where the assumptions I made might have led me astray, although I still have reservations regarding the reliability of the approach. I'm glad they are experimenting in the hope of achieving their projected goal, but am skeptical they will achieve it.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 15 October, 2013, 11:15
Not so. No vehicle needs thrust to descend, gravity takes care of that. What you need is thrust to break the vehicle and allow it to land. Where did you get that figure from? Firstly that is not the way it works. The vehicle size (and therefore fuel load) is the fixed point. You don't increase fuel, you decrease payload size. This of course has the economic down-side you are referring to, same fuel to lift smaller payload = higher cost per weight orbited. Not so, see my point above. However let's assume that this is the case. I'm not sure where you get the "double the... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 15 October, 2013, 11:27
Hi Leonardo, sorry for the post coming after yours, I wasn't intending to put the boot in, I was already in the middle of writing it and it seemed a shame to waste it. I think the advantage they have is that they are modifying existing technologies rather than building something new and complex. The only real modifications are the landing legs and software. SpaceX are taking a steady, incremental approach to re-usability. The Falcon 9 already works. The engines can already be re-lit in flight. The Grasshopper has now made 8 successful flights proving that the first stage can be land... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by highdesert50 on 15 October, 2013, 13:25
I am not an MechEng, so perhaps I am missing the obvious. But, wouldn't it be far less costly and simpler to use an enhanced parachute system. Or, perhaps parachute and some thrust e.g. JATO/RATO at near touchdown.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 15 October, 2013, 14:14
Parachutes still add weight. The parachutes needed to lower the speed of a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage which weighs over 25 tons would need to be massive and therefore heavy. Unless you are planning to land at sea (like the shuttle SRBs) then you are still going to need to manoeuvre the vehicle at supersonic speed back over land, which requires engine thrust. Parachute's alone could not land the vehicle in a horizontal position, it would hit the ground hard and topple over, so it would still need to use rocket motors to make a controlled landing. This would almost certainly require the ... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Lex540 on 25 October, 2013, 14:08
Innovations distinguishes between a leader and a follower. nice job. "steve Jobs"

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