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Space Transportation Science Technology

SpaceX's Grasshopper VTVL Finally Jumps Its Own Height 111

cylonlover writes "The SpaceX Grasshopper vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) testbed has successfully flown to a height of 40 meters (131 ft), hovered for a bit and subsequently landed in a picture perfect test on December 17, 2012. The Grasshopper had previously taken two hops to less than 6 m (20 ft) in height, but the latest test was the first that saw it reach an altitude taller than the rocket itself, which is a modified Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle. The flight lasted 29 seconds from launch to landing, and carried a 1.8 m (6 ft) cowboy dummy to give an indication of scale."
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SpaceX's Grasshopper VTVL Finally Jumps Its Own Height

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  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:53AM (#42403651) Homepage Journal

    I really can't see one. It seems like a massive waste of fuel to carry more stores on board then land vertically. Couldn't there be a better way of slowing descent in the atmosphere and recovering the module, like parachuting it into the ocean?

    Quicker and cheaper recovery, enabling it to be reused far quicker, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:59AM (#42403687)

    The big advantage is that when you dunk a booster the seawater gets everywhere and you have to rebuild it.

    SpaceX would rather bring it down powered, test it, then launch it again. The cost of the propellant is less than 100K per launch, its the refurbishment, and sometimes wholesale replacement of the parts that really costs a lot of money.

    More info on strategy here:

  • by moniker127 ( 1290002 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:23AM (#42403823)
    Space Shuttle:
    Payload to GTO: ~3000 kg.
    Average cost per flight: 1.5 billion (cost of shuttle program / number of launches)

    Falcon 9 rocket:
    Payload to GTO:~2000 kg
    Average cost per flight: 50m (cost of expendable rocket)

    Falcon 9 rocket with grasshopper gear:
    Payload to GTO:~1000 kg (rough estimate)
    Average cost per flight: ~200,000 (expected figure for fuel + incidentals)

    You can do the math to figure out why this is a big deal.
  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:58PM (#42406323)

    Adding to your thought ...

    The 'breaking apart' was an intentional jettison of a panel to ensure any other actual issues would limit exposure to the rest of the craft. It was just like the safety blow off value on a water heater. Unacceptable tolorences were detected and the craft compensated to mitigate damage and ensure continued flight.

    The 'break apart' was by design and couldn't have been a better example of designing for failure and still winning the game.

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