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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 cyberguyz on 12/28/2012 6:32:57 AM , Rating: 2
You are thinking of this only in cost of raw materials. Those raw materials only make up 1/10th the cost of that rocket booster.

The rocket stages have to be engineered and manufactured to turn the raw materials into a rocket booster. That is not negligible. Manufacturing is not done in Chinese sweat shops. all the parts that make up that booster are custom hand-made one-off parts that takes months to build. There is no cost saving assembly line for these. That takes a lot of money. NASA didn't care about costs. They had Trillions of taxpayer $$$ to work with. They no longer have that and can no longer sustain the 'throw away' mentality they had before.

Look at the current SpaceX contract with the U.S government. A dozen supply runs for 1.6B. Do you really think NASA could do a dozen runs with the shuttle fleet for that?

I am not sure what the U.S. was paying for the shuttle runs, but I would bet is it at least 5 times that. Not having to re-manufacture solid fuel boosters for each run will go a long way to SpaceX keeping within that 1.6B budget and make some profit (they are after all a private company and not doing this to break even).

By mjv.theory on 12/29/2012 4:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
Taking into account all the costs for developing and running the Shuttle program, the cost of each and every single flight of the Shuttle cost 1.5 Billion dollars.

A crewed dragon flight will take up to 7 astronauts to orbit for $120,000,000 and Falcon 9 Heavy will be able to lift over twice the payload mass of the Shuttle for about $120,000,000. So SpaceX will be able to replace Shuttle capability for about 1/8 of the cost.

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