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The Grasshopper Project is a Falcon first stage with a landing gear that's capable of taking off and landing vertically

SpaceX is undoubtedly the rockstar of U.S. space travel, and now, the company is taking its commitment to innovation to a whole new level.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is currently testing what is called the Grasshopper Project, which is a major breakthrough in rocket reusability.

The Grasshopper Project is a Falcon first stage with a landing gear that's capable of taking off and landing vertically. It does this by shooting into orbit, turning around, restarting the engine, heading back to the launch site, changing its direction and deploying the landing gear. The end result is a vertical landing.

Check out this video of the Grasshopper Project in action:

After NASA retired its space shuttle fleet (Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis shuttles) throughout 2011, SpaceX stepped in as the first private company to ship supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX flew its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS for the first time back in May for a test supply run. After that successful trip, SpaceX and NASA signed a $1.6 billion contract that allows SpaceX to complete 12 supply trips to the ISS and back.

On October 7, SpaceX made its first official supply run as part of that contract. It arrived October 10. The mission was a success.

Dragon is due to make its second run in January 2013. SpaceX is also looking to send the first manned Dragon capsule to the ISS somewhere between 2015 and 2017.

Source: Business Insider

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By Joolio12 on 12/26/2012 12:28:48 PM , Rating: 2
If there was an economic way to re-fuel from Low Earth Orbit, this kind of landing system might be quite reasonable. I understand that it makes little economic sense to send fuel from Earth to LEO so I am looking further in the future where raw materials, or fuel itself, could be moved into LEO via low delta-v scenarios. It's all in the economics.

By andyFUN on 12/26/2012 12:49:35 PM , Rating: 2
or transport fuel from a location...say, with 1/6 Earths gravity?


By Joolio12 on 12/26/2012 2:00:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, mass drivers from the Moon would work nicely. I'm not sure if there are sufficient raw materials on the Moon to produce decent rocket fuel but there is Hydrogen and Oxygen from the recently discovered water ice. Carbon could be driven to LEO from the martian moons or maybe the asteroid belt. It's fun to speculate about some future triangle trade between Earth, Moon, and Mars.

By Samus on 12/26/2012 3:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
For light loads (like astronauts or a satellite) this will be revolutionarily inexpensive.

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