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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 CharonPDX on 12/26/2012 11:56:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not an accountant or economist, so I don't know the actual fiscal feasibility, but...

SpaceX claims that by making the entire stack reusable, they will save a LOT of money. I don't know if it will end up being true or not - look at how expensive the Space Shuttle ended up being - but they must have internal calculations that show it to be profitable.

I'm going to throw out completely out-of-my-ass numbers as a guess as to their reasoning:

One throwaway rocket launch, not counting fuel: $80 Million
Fuel for throwaway rocket launch: $20 Million
Total cost of throwaway rocket launch: $100 Million

One reusable rocket, creation cost: $100 Million
Fuel for one launch, including overhead for landing fuel: $30 Million
Total cost for first launch: $130 Million

Refurbishment cost: $20 Million
Fuel for further launch: $30 Million
Total cost for each future launch: $50 Million.

Therefore by my seat-of-pants wild-ass-guess, it would be profitable on the second launch.

In reality, I assume that the first time cost is significantly higher, and that it will take half a dozen launches or more to reach profitability.

By mjv.theory on 12/27/2012 10:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
A flight of a disposable Falcon 9 can be purchased from SpaceX for $54,000,000 (prices are on their website). Elon Musk claims the cost of the fuel is about $200,000, which is 0.37% of the total cost.

Fuel per 100 flights = 100 x 200,000 = 20,000,000
Vehicle cost per 100 flights = 54,000,000
Ground operations and maintenance = 100 x 260,000

Cost per flight = $1,000,000

If the vehicle can fly 1000 times then to cost per flight is perhaps $500,000.

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