SpaceX Signs Three-Year Deal with Spaceport America for "Grasshopper" Rocket
May 8, 2013 11:32 AM
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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,
“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.
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RE: Great news
5/8/2013 5:44:23 PM
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
5/8/2013 6:57:33 PM
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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