September 25, 2012
Grasshopper Hops For SpaceX In Trial Run
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
SpaceX tested out its reusable rocket at the company's Texas test site on Friday in a short flight that lasted about three-seconds.
The company's concept calls for the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage to descend and land vertically by using engine thrust for touchdown at or near the launch site.
The 106-foot-tall rocket, named Grasshopper due to its insect-like landing legs, consists of a Falcon 9 first stage and a Merlin 1D engine that burns kerosene and liquid oxygen, generating up to 122,000 pounds of thrust.
Friday's test launch saw Grasshopper take flight for a few seconds, and only at an altitude of about 6 feet.
SpaceX's founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has said developing a reusable rocket is crucial to bringing down the cost of space transportation. The company already has developed a reusable capsule, which successfully docked with the International Space Station early this past summer.
"SpaceX is working to develop vehicles that are fully and rapidly reusable, a key element to radically reducing cost and increasing the efficiency of spaceflight," the company wrote in a post after the successful test.
Grasshopper's next flight will be in several months, during which the vehicle will hover at about 100 feet.
Another high-altitude supersonic test flight is being planned by SpaceX, which is dependent of the success of the next test.
The company's Dragon capsule is set for another launch towards the International Space Station on October 7, 2012. The launch represents the first of 12 SpaceX flights to the ISS under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
During the resupply mission, Dragon will be filled with supplies like 166 experiments in plant cell biology, human biotechnology, and materials technology. One experiment will examine the effects of microgravity on the opportunistic yeast Candida albicans.
Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use a robotic arm to grapple Dragon, following its rendezvous with the station.
Dragon will return to Earth in Late October in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California, carrying back scientific materials and space station hardware.