SpaceX Grasshopper Rocket Completes Lateral Maneuver
August 15, 2013

Grasshopper Reusable Rocket Successfully Completes Divert Test

[ Watch the Video: SpaceX Reusable Rocket Jumps Another Hurdle ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

SpaceX’s Grasshopper reusable rocket took another step forward earlier this week, successfully completing a “divert test” which saw the vehicle reach an altitude of 250 meters before executing a 100-meter lateral maneuver, the company announced on Wednesday.

According to CNET’s Daniel Terdiman, the Falcon 9 test rig took off and reached heights of 820.2 feet during Tuesday’s launch. It then moved 328 feet laterally before flying back to the center of its launch pad.

“The test demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights,” the Hawthorne, California-based company said in a statement, according to Forbes staff writer Alex Knapp. “Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after reentering from space at hypersonic velocity.”

“The significance of the new test, SpaceX said today, is that because Grasshopper is more than 10 stories tall, controlling it during a divert test is a special challenge,” Terdiman added. “Proving that it is possible is an essential element in the Falcon 9 program's progress to re-entering the atmosphere from space at hypersonic velocity.”

Earlier this summer, the Grasshopper successfully soared more than 1,000 feet into the air before safely returning to and landing on its McGregor, Texas launch pad. During that June 14 test flight, the Falcon 9 reached a record height of 1,066 feet (325 meters) – higher than the top of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, according to reports.

“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.”

The Grasshopper test rig is a Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that 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. It has been designed to withstand re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, whereas most rockets burn up during this process. Grasshopper was announced in 2011 and began low-altitude, low-velocity testing in 2012.