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.