SpaceX Test of Grasshopper Reusable Rocket Filmed by 'Hexacopter' (Video)

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 10:17 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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SpaceX's latest test flight of its Grasshopper reusable rocket was a success last month, and the whole thing was captured on tape from the air by a small robotic "hexacopter" drone.

While most rockets burn up in the Earth's atmosphere after delivering their contents to space, the experimental 10-story-tall Grasshopper prototype is able to land vertically back down on its launch pad and be reused multiple times.

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Created by Elon Musk's private space transport company SpaceX, the Grasshopper completed its sixth test launch June 14, flying up more than 1,000 feet, hovering for a moment, and coming slowly back down for a safe landing at the company's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

The video of the launch, recorded from above with a hexacopter drone, was released Friday.

The latest launch also tested the Grasshopper's new navigation technology, SpaceX announced.

"For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing," company officials wrote in a description accompanying the flight video. "Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper.

"Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing."

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