SpaceX's Grasshopper Test Successful, Rocket Hops Sideways

Image: SpaceX's Grasshopper Test Successful, Rocket Hops Sideways

Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 04:22 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Entrepreneur Elon Musk is garnering widespread media attention this week for his Hyperloop transportation system, but a small, yet noteworthy success was made Wednesday when Musk’s SpaceX company launched its reusable “Grasshopper” rocket on a one-minute flight that hopped sideways.

SpaceX is attempting to make space travel less expensive by creating a rocket that launches and then returns to the launchpad, CBS reported. Maneuverability is critical to making the rocket successful, and when the Grasshopper managed its sideways hop, it was a step forward.

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In a one-minute flight, the Grasshopper, known formally by the company as Falcon 9 test rig, launched. At 820 feet, the Grasshopper moved sideways, hovered, and then returned to the launch pad.

When the rocket re-enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, it must be able to steer accurately. Although other companies have been able to move rockets sideways, none of the space crafts were as large as the Grasshopper, which stands at 10 stories tall.

In June, the Grasshopper made its highest flight at 1,066 feet.

The Grasshopper uses the first-stage tank of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, which launches the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. SpaceX was hired to make 12 deliveries to the station, although those rockets are not manned, Yahoo reported.

Musk said that SpaceX would try a Falcon 9 water landing in 2013 and a vertical landing in 2014, The Verge reported. Moving the rocket sideways makes those goals more attainable.

The Grasshopper flight showed “the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights. Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after re-entering from space at a hypersonic velocity,” a SpaceX statement read.

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