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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:SpaceX's Grasshopper VTVL vehicle test flights
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The short hop of approximately 6 feet is the first major milestone for Grasshopper, and a critical step toward a reusable first stage for SpaceX's proven Falcon 9 rocket. As seen in the video, Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 first stage, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure.

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.

Testing of Grasshopper continues, with the next big milestone — a hover at roughly 100 feet — expected in the next several months.

jasonelamHere is the video from a second VTVL test which happened today.
Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
SpaceX's Grasshopper Takes Giant Leap Towards Reusability with 40 Meter Flight

SpaceX’s Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds.

Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

The 12-story flight marks a significant increase over the height and length of hover of Grasshopper’s previous test flights, which took place earlier this fall. In September, Grasshopper flew to 1.8 meters (6 feet), and in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet/2 stories) including a brief hover.

Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successively more sophisticated flights expected over the next several months.

JurvetsonHere is a page of close-up photos I took from a pre-flight visit:

SpaceX Grasshopper
Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
Grasshopper's latest hop

SpaceX's Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) today, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad. At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9. Today's test was completed at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Grasshopper, SpaceX's vertical and takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle, continues SpaceX's work toward one of its key goals - developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets, a feat that will transform space exploration by radically reducing its cost. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would enable a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to the Earth's atmosphere.

This is Grasshopper's fourth in a series of test flights, with each test demonstrating exponential increases in altitude. Last September, Grasshopper flew to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) and in December, it flew to 40 meters (131 feet).

Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and 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.

JurvetsonThe latest Grasshopper video is my favorite, again with the Texan riding it.

Elon unveiled it yesterday at SXSW in Austin. The tip of the 10-gallon hat to Texas was quite topical. The engine testing and Grasshopper hopping takes place in McGregor Texas, and Elon was testifying to the Texas House of Representatives on Friday regarding SpaceX's plans to build an orbital launch complex at the southernmost tip of Texas.

And we took a team visit to SpaceX on Friday.

rasorensonAmazing achievements!

Anyone know if the stable attitude is maintained by sophisticated gimbaling of the main engine, or are there additional thrusters keeping the rocket vertical? There must be!

Robert PearlmanSpaceX video release
Grasshopper 250m Test | Ring of Fire

SpaceX's Grasshopper flies 820 feet, tripling its March 7th leap.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, SpaceX's rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.

gliderpilotukIt's pretty surreal, seeing the rocket hanging in thin air.

I'm wondering how much more fuel the Falcon would have to carry in order to return to a vertical landing, plus the extra fuel to carry the extra fuel! Also, what are the "crosswind" limitations?

daboltonIs it the same vehicle and engines each time?
Robert PearlmanIt is the same vehicle, though a second, more advanced Grasshopper has been announced that will feature among other upgrades, flight-like fold-up landing legs. Per Wikipedia:
Test plans call for the v1.1 Grasshopper to be flight tested only at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, at altitudes up to approximately 91,000 meters (300,000 feet).
Robert PearlmanSpaceport America release
Spaceport America Welcomes SpaceX for Reusable Rocket Testing Program

Governor Susana Martinez today announced that Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has signed a three-year agreement to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America to conduct the next phase of flight testing for its reusable rocket program. The company will be a new tenant at Spaceport America, the state-owned commercial launch site located in southern New Mexico.

"I am thrilled that SpaceX has chosen to make New Mexico its home, bringing their revolutionary "Grasshopper" rocket and new jobs with them," Governor Martinez said today. "We've done a lot of work to level the playing field so we can compete in the space industry. This is just the first step in broadening the base out at the Spaceport and securing even more tenants. I'm proud to welcome SpaceX to New Mexico."

SpaceX has completed its first series of successful, low-altitude tests of the "Grasshopper" vehicle in McGregor, Texas and is proceeding to the next phase of development that includes testing in New Mexico. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are creating technology that will enable a rocket to return to the launch pad intact for a vertical landing, rather than burning up upon reentry in the Earth's atmosphere.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said, "Spaceport America offers us the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing. We are pleased to expand our reusable rocket development infrastructure to New Mexico."

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has been readying the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport specifically for leading-edge programs like Grasshopper.

Christine Anderson, the NMSA Executive Director, said, "We are excited that SpaceX is coming to Spaceport America, where our first-class service will empower them to focus their full attention on their mission."

Robert PearlmanSpaceX video release
Grasshopper 325m Test | Single Camera (Hexacopter)

On June 14, SpaceX's Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet) — higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building — before smoothly landing back on the pad. For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing. Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper.

Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

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.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
SpaceX's Grasshopper Successfully Completes 100m Lateral Divert Test

On August 13th, the Falcon 9 test rig (code name Grasshopper) completed a divert test, flying to a 250m altitude with a 100m lateral maneuver before returning to the center of the pad. The test demonstrated the vehicle's ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights.

Grasshopper is taller than a ten story building, which makes the control problem particularly challenging. 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.

Robert PearlmanSpaceX release
Grasshopper 744m Test | Single Camera (Hexacopter)

On Monday (Oct. 7), Grasshopper completed its highest leap to date, rising to 744 meters (2,440 feet) altitude. The view above is taken from a single camera hexacopter, getting closer to the stage than in any previous flight.

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

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.

RonpurWOW!! That is amazing video!
jtheoretGwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, informed the ISPCS attendees this week that SpaceX intends to start testing Grasshopper at Spaceport America in New Mexico in December, where it can fly much higher than in Texas.
Robert PearlmanSpace News elaborates on Jeremy's post — SpaceX has retired its Grasshopper prototype and plans a December debut of a new test rig, known as Falcon 9R, and a new test site at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The upgraded prototype will have nine Merlin 1D engines compared with Grasshopper's single motor, bringing the company closer to its long-term goal of developing reusable rockets.

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