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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5/9/2013 2:37:36 PM
It's exceptionally difficult, but it's not a single stage vehicle. Grasshopper is, because they're just testing that particular stage.
The Falcon 9 is a two-stage vehicle, so the idea with the reusable variant (Falcon 9R) is that you separate the stages a bit earlier than normal. This leaves some fuel left in the first stage for the landing, and keeps the altitude/velocity low enough that you don't need a heat shield. This obviously does reduce your payload capabilities (can't lift as much), but the dramatic reduction in cost helps counter that, as does the ever improving payload capacity of SpaceX' vehicles (Falcon 9 v1.1 will already be a big boost over the current v1.0).
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