December 25, 2012
Grasshopper Test Flight Takes Along A Passenger This Time
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
SpaceX is continuing tests with its Grasshopper reusable rocket, and this time it had a passenger to go along for the ride.
The company sent its prototype Grasshopper rocket 131 feet into the air for a test flight, and added a six-foot dummy onboard for good measure.
The 12-story tall Grasshopper rocket is designed to take off and land vertically, and could one day be a spacecraft that could take astronauts to and from space.
SpaceX's latest launch is a major step in their goal to produce a reusable space vehicle. The company is already the first to have a contract to resupply missions to the International Space Station, and now it´s shooting for another contract to help supply the orbiting laboratory with astronauts.
Grasshopper features four landing legs with hydraulic dampers and a steel support structure to keep it intact when it settles back down to Earth.
Vertical takeoff spacecraft developed so far rely on disposable lower stages, which can add to the cost, but SpaceX's launch vehicle does not.
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of the company, said the launch was a success, Tweeting it was "no problem."
"To provide a little perspective on the size of Grasshopper, we added a 6ft cowboy to the rocket," he also wrote.
During the latest test, the Grasshopper vehicle flew for 29 seconds and hovered before landing safely on its launch pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control.
SpaceX has already achieved the accolade of becoming the first company to launch a successful mission to the International Space Station this year.
Ultimately, Musk has admitted to ambitions of eventually helping to establish a colony of people on Mars. SpaceX is developing a Falcon Heavy rocket that could help power those long mission flights, and Grasshopper's reusability is another key part of that strategy.