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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 geddarkstorm on 12/26/2012 12:54:21 PM , Rating: 2
SpaceX tells us the opposite, that making their rocket reusable will greatly decrease the costs per lb to put something into orbit (slash the cost in about half). You can see why, since the cost of a rocket isn't really in its fuel, its in the engine. Saving those engines is a huge economical boon.

The fact SpaceX is tackling this so well so far is incredible, and shows their creative genius. The project could still fail, but I'm glad someone is trying to take on and solve this issue.

By maugrimtr on 1/2/2013 10:26:39 AM , Rating: 2
The guy above saying this can't be economical is speaking out of his ass. There is a significant barrier to escaping the old guard method of disposable rockets - getting the used up rocket to softly land intact. Splashing into the sea with a parachute? Saltwater is corrosive and it would ruin the engine component. Parachuting to land? It will never fly again after hitting that!

Space X have finally arrived at a tentatively working system to vertically land at least one rocket stage. That makes it easy to retrieve, easy to transport and reduces the likelihood of damage. But they went one better - returning a rocket from orbit for reuse (not just from an atmospheric jettison). Of course, they might really be after the expensively complex but intact reusable engine rather than the whole fuselage (which could conceivable just be recycled and replaced).

It's also pretty bad to point at the Shuttle as an example of reuse. The shuttle was a hideously complicated and expensive craft that never met its objective of being cheap and simple. Consider a capsule paired with reusable Space X rockets - that's far better!

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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