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The Grasshopper lifted to 24 stories (262.8 feet) off the ground

SpaceX took its reusable Grasshopper rocket for another hop last week at the South by Southwest festival in Texas.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was there to demonstrate the Grasshopper's fourth test flight, which was twice as high as the reusable rocket has ever gone in previous demonstrations.

"Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad," said SpaceX. "At touchdown, the thrust-to-weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9."

The Grasshopper lifted to 24 stories (262.8 feet) off the ground, hovered for about 34 seconds and then landed safely back on the ground.

The Grasshopper 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.

The reusable rocket was tested in September, November, December and last week Thursday.

Check out this video of Thursday's demonstration:

Source: NBC News

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RE: amazing
By delphinus100 on 3/15/2013 10:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
As far as reusable spacecraft go, the Space Shuttle had the right idea. You injected gobs of energy into the spacecraft to put it into orbit. Instead of bleeding it all off during descent, save some of it so you can glide to a landing.

Vertical landing concepts (not just a recoverable Falcon stage, this goes way back) don't try to decelerate all the way from LEO (it would take as much energy as to get there..and imagine putting a vehicle that big into orbit to begin with). Conventional aerobraking as we've always seen it, is done (after a retroburn that anyone must do, to dip the low point of your orbit into the atmosphere), until the vehicle slows itself to whatever its terminal velocity is. You need only enough propellant to decelerate from that to zero, and you air-start the engines at the right time to reach zero velocity at the surface.

What? Air-start of engines makes you nervous? The flip side is that a winged orbiter is a glider that must reach a runway of minimum length, and has only one pass st it.

Or go back to capsules whose parachutes must open properly, every time. (Soyuz-1, anyone?)

You pays your money and makes your choice...

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