July 7, 2013
Reusable SpaceX Rocket Reached Record Heights During Recent Test Launch
[ Watch the Video: Grasshopper 325m Test | Single Camera ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
SpaceX's Grasshopper reusable rocket soared more than 1,000 feet into the air before making a safe and smooth landing back on its launch pad during its most recent flight, officials from the Hawthorne, California-based space transportation company have revealed.
During the June 14 test flight, the rocket lifted off from its launch pad in McGregor, Texas and went on to reach a record height of 1,066 feet (325 meters) - higher than the top of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, according to the Daily Mail.
"It's an impressive number, but not quite as important as the rocket's landing results: SpaceX says that not only did the Grasshopper reach a record height, but it touched down 'smoothly' onto its landing pad," said Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge.
"That success was made possible by a new navigation sensor included on the Grasshopper," he added. "The sensor provided additional detail about the rocket's relation to the ground beneath it, which SpaceX says was necessary for its control team to ensure a precise landing."
While the test flight took place more than three weeks ago, SpaceX only just released video of the 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle's launch on Friday. The Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.
According to the Telegraph, last month's launch marked the first time that the Grasshopper was able to use its navigation sensors in order to complete a vertical return landing on its launch pad. In addition to its VTVL capabilities, it is designed to withstand re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, whereas most rockets burn up during this process.
"Grasshopper is a prototype that SpaceX hopes will one day lead to reusable rockets replacing the existing 'throw away' type," The Next Web's Jon Russell explained. "It isn't clear when that day will be, but the company is aiming to pioneer a new kind of craft to reduce the cost of space travel as it aims to open it to civilians."
"The latest results underscore just how far the Grasshopper has come in a short period of time," Kastrenakes added. "Only four months ago, the rocket had yet to reach even 300 feet high."