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SpaceX will conduct its next phase of Grasshopper flight testing in New Mexico

SpaceX has signed an agreement with Spaceport America to use its facilities for the next phase of Grasshopper testing. 

Under the agreement, SpaceX will use Spaceport America's land and facilities in New Mexico for three years during the next phase of testing for its reusable rocket, "Grasshopper."

“I am thrilled that SpaceX has chosen to make New Mexico its home, bringing their revolutionary 'Grasshopper' rocket and new jobs with them,” Governor Martinez said. “We’ve done a lot of work to level the playing field so we can compete in the space industry. This is just the first step in broadening the base out at the Spaceport and securing even more tenants. I’m proud to welcome SpaceX to New Mexico.”

SpaceX's 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.

“Spaceport America offers us the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing," SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said. "We are pleased to expand our reusable rocket development infrastructure to New Mexico.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently demonstrated the Grasshopper back in March, where it lifted to 24 stories (262.8 feet) off the ground, hovered for about 34 seconds and then landed safely back on the ground. This was the highest point Grasshopper had ever reached. 

Source: Spaceport America

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Great news
By Ammohunt on 5/8/2013 12:05:58 PM , Rating: 3
I was convinced that they were going to build this gigantic space port that no one would use. Having Space X there lends legitimacy the idea and frees commercial companies from NASA owned launch facilities.

RE: Great news
By AlphaVirus on 5/8/2013 1:24:28 PM , Rating: 2
Very great news!

I love seeing this type of positive progress in commercial space exploration.

RE: Great news
By amelia321 on 5/9/13, Rating: -1
RE: Great news
By Solandri on 5/8/2013 2:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
Having Space X there lends legitimacy the idea and frees commercial companies from NASA owned launch facilities.

Space X launches from NASA's facilities in Cape Canaveral, and the USAF's facilities in Vandenberg. In fact their next scheduled launch is 9 July at Vandenberg AFB.

The only truly commercial launch facility I know of is Sea Launch. Unfortunately it didn't do so well and went bankrupt in 2009 (though it emerged after restructuring and is still operational).

RE: Great news
By Shig on 5/8/2013 4:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
There just isn't a need for more launch facilities until we start launching more rockets. A re-usable rocket would see satellite launches increase 10-100 fold in a matter of business quarters.

The US is FAR ahead of any other country right now. Plus it's not just SpaceX, there are other private space companies in the US too that are also competing.

RE: Great news
By Gondor on 5/8/2013 5:30:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ugh, is there even enough room in various orbits for that many satellites (to operate there for years without frequent incidents) ?

RE: Great news
By Azethoth on 5/8/2013 5:57:18 PM , Rating: 3
There is lots of room provided best practices are followed: old satellites get de-orbited; you don't test your stupid anti-satellite stuff in such a way that you spray crap all over (ie. China); satellites contain fuel to maneuver out of harms way when things get real.

In addition there needs to be an active program to collect and dump existing space junk and keep a lid on all those that failed at best practices.

RE: Great news
By m51 on 5/8/2013 5:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
Virgin Galactic is actually the anchor tenant for Spaceport America and SpaceShipTwo and White Knight Two will be flying out of there soon...ish.

Spacex has been flying their Grasshopper 1 out of their engine testing facility in Macgregor Texas, but they are bumping up against the altitude limits for their FAA license their.

To go higher and faster they need the open airspace which SPA can provide. It's located adjacent to the White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexcio. Grasshopper 1 will be retired and Grasshopper 2 which will be a very close version of a full Falcon 9 1.1 first stage complete with folding landing legs will be flown out of SPA at altitudes up to 300,000 feet and hypersonic speeds. They will also be shutting the engines off, falling at terminal velocity, and doing engine restarts shortly before impact to land the vehicle with minimal fuel usage. Should be fun to watch.

As to other spaceports, it seems almost certain at this point that Spacex will be building a launch facility on the coast of Texas near Brownsville, at Boca Chica beach. This is initially planned to handle up to 12 launches a year for commercial customers (the vast majority will be for launches to geosynchronous orbits).

There is also some indication that they will be building large diameter (7+ meter)rockets there. These will be using the 650,000 lbf Methane/Lox Raptor engine they are currently working on. Brownsville has the land and a shipping port that allow such large rockets to be flown out of Boca Chica, or barged to Cape Canaveral or Vandenburg. Currently the Spacex factory in Hawthorne can't build anything larger than the Falcon 9 because it's at the limit for road transportable size.

It'll be nice if things go smoothly in their efforts to design a fully reusable booster. Even if 2nd stage reusability eludes them it will still be a game changer.

RE: Great news
By geddarkstorm on 5/8/2013 6:57:33 PM , Rating: 2
I honestly can't wait to see how Grasshopper two goes. But, it also starts bringing business in to the private space port, which is a mighty boon. Just gotta get that snowball effect rolling to cause a full blown industry bloom.

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