SpaceX Reusable “Grasshopper” Rocket Jumps 744m and Lands Intact (Video)

An experimental rocket, built by SpaceX, reached a new hight of 744 meters on October 7th 2013. After reaching this height it landed safely down to the launchpad in McGregor, Texas, USA. This trial doubled the reached height from the previous trial which was set at 325 meters. This experimentation with reusable rockets by SpaceX hopes to accomplish, in the mid to long run, several rocket powered flights per day, whether that would be for resupplying the International Space Station, launching satellites into Earth’s orbit, or even building bigger structures in Earth’s orbit. In essence, what reusable rockets do is decrease overall price per launch by reusing the same vehicles over and over again, with just basic maintenance and refueling.

“Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.” wrote SpaceX officials in a youtube video description of the launch. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.”

Elon Musk has stated that they expect to perform a supersonic flight of this vehicle platform by the end of 2014.

What we are witnessing are the first steps towards commercialization of the space industry and interplanetary travel while bringing in the economies of scale and decreasing costs. What this accomplishes is that it makes the space industry available to a larger audience than the already established government agencies and corporations. At the forefront of this movement are companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic (Or TSC),  Orbital Sciences Corporation etc.  But we’ll have to wait for a couple of decades before we can take a space cab to the Moon.

We’ll keep you posted on future developments with SpaceX.

The video below is a recording of the most recent flight of the “Grasshopper” taken from a hexacopter drone hovering  at around 600-650 meters.

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Tesla Model S on Fire (UPDATED)

Tesla Model S being extinguished by firefighters (Seattle, USA) © Jalopnik

Tesla Model S being extinguished by firefighters (Seattle, USA) © Jalopnik

It seems that the accident that happened earlier this week with a Tesla Model S catching on fire was more of a freak accident. Tesla went out there and started its own investigation concerning the accident. In fact the most recent findings have been published by Elon Musk (the CEO of Tesla Motors) on the company ‘s blog as an open public letter. Below I am pasting the letter in its entirety since it explains the accident in quite some detail:

Earlier this week, a Model S traveling at highway speed struck a large metal object, causing significant damage to the vehicle. A curved section that fell off a semi-trailer was recovered from the roadway near where the accident occurred and, according to the road crew that was on the scene, appears to be the culprit. The geometry of the object caused a powerful lever action as it went under the car, punching upward and impaling the Model S with a peak force on the order of 25 tons. Only a force of this magnitude would be strong enough to punch a 3 inch diameter hole through the quarter inch armor plate protecting the base of the vehicle.

The Model S owner was nonetheless able to exit the highway as instructed by the onboard alert system, bring the car to a stop and depart the vehicle without injury. A fire caused by the impact began in the front battery module – the battery pack has a total of 16 modules – but was contained to the front section of the car by internal firewalls within the pack. Vents built into the battery pack directed the flames down towards the road and away from the vehicle.

When the fire department arrived, they observed standard procedure, which was to gain access to the source of the fire by puncturing holes in the top of the battery’s protective metal plate and applying water. For the Model S lithium-ion battery, it was correct to apply water (vs. dry chemical extinguisher), but not to puncture the metal firewall, as the newly created holes allowed the flames to then vent upwards into the front trunk section of the Model S. Nonetheless, a combination of water followed by dry chemical extinguisher quickly brought the fire to an end.

It is important to note that the fire in the battery was contained to a small section near the front by the internal firewalls built into the pack structure. At no point did fire enter the passenger compartment.

Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.

The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to 1 vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to 1 fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!

For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.

— Elon

Tesla shares 05.10.2013The markets seem to have reacted positively to this announcement and Tesla Shares have risen since. For the direct correspondence between the driver of the Tesla Model S that caught on fire and representatives of Tesla  just follow the link to Tesla’s blog or Elon’s tweet on the right side of this blog.

Tesla Model S on Fire

Tesla Model S being extinguished by firefighters (Seattle, USA) © Jalopnik

Well I hate to start this blog with negative news concerning the electric car producer Tesla Motors but you have to start somewhere. Reported by an automobile blog Jalopnik and BBC, apparently a Tesla Model S caught on fire last week after being involved in a collision which was confirmed by Tesla to which they added that the driver has ran into “an extremely large object,” and that was the cause of the fire. Obviously Tesla is being extremely careful in its wording since they don’t want  to be associated with the Fisker hybrid car which was involved in several incidents where the vehicle caught on fire while being parked, with no collision involved.

Tesla Shares 03.10.2013

The shares of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA), as you can see on the print screen, have dropped by more than 6% due to this incident. One has to have in mind that if you produce cars they are bound to have accidents, and a fire on a Tesla Model S was bound to happen as they increase rolling out their production around the world. And there will be more cases where electric and hybrid vehicles will catch on fire, just as conventional cars, as their numbers on the streets increase. However just as with the conventional cars, accidents of this kind cannot be an obstacle for innovation. I am sure that Tesla in the following days will analyse its data from this most recent incident and give more details about what set this vehicle on fire.

Obviously, taking the human factor out of the equation and investing in autonomous cars (like the Google driverless car) is the way forward? Give your thoughts below the video which shows the actual Tesla Model S on fire.