SpaceX, the private space transportation company, has reached another milestone in the development of their suborbital reusable launch vehicle (RLV), the Grasshopper.
Since 2012 SpaceX has been testing the Grasshopper rocket by incrementally increasing the time and distance that the rocket separates itself from its launch pad. In its first few tests, Space X was careful not to let its’ new VTOL rocket venture too far from its resting place, sending the Grasshopper on small jumps of 6 and then 17.7 feet.
Based on the success of those early tests, the Grasshopper team has begun pushing the boundary of what’s possible with VTOL rockets.
Last month the Grasshopper cleared the 1,000 ft (325m) altitude milestone. SpaceX has just released the stunning video of the rockets accent and decent. In a video shot aboard a hexacopter hovering some 1,000ft (305m) above Earth, the drone captured every moment of the Grasshopper’s latest accomplishment.
Although SpaceX’s RLV is making progress in its battle against gravity, this most recent test was focused on more than just surpassing a high altitude.
According to SpaceX, “Grasshopper flew 325 m (1066 feet)--higher than Manhattan's Chrysler Building... 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.”
By using the new F9-R sensor system, SpaceX engineers were able to directly control the rocket’s accent and decent “adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.”
SpaceX plans more tests that will push the Grasshopper to higher and higher altitudes. If these tests prove successful, Grasshopper rockets could become an affordable way to take cargo and explorers into lower orbit and possibly the ISS.
Image and Video Courtesy of SpaceX