Falcon 9 Experimental Test Rig Aces Vital Divert Test

Falcon 9 Experimental Test Rig Aces Vital Divert Test

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 test rig, nicknamed ‘Grasshopper,’ has successfully completed its first 100 meter lateral divert test. SpaceX, maker of the Dragon spacecraft¬†which currently fulfills NASA’s ISS resupply runs, plans to develop the Grasshopper into a reusable launch vehicle. Under current technologies, launchers are typically discarded after the first use, since there is no current way to get them safely back to ground. While challenging, making a reusable launch vehicle would save millions of dollars per launch.


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The Grasshopper has been in development since 2011 and began testing in 2012. It has come a long way since its first tests in September 2012, in which it used its novel thruster system to raise a mere meter or so off the ground and then set back down three seconds later. Since then, the launcher has shown itself capable of lifting itself up to 325 meters before returning safely to the launch pad. The most recent test, on August 13 2013, is the most vital so far. Instead of heading straight up and returning straight back down to the ground in a vertical line, the Grasshopper rose about 250 meters with a 100 meter sideways shift. Returning to the ground without damage despite this added difficulty was a major triumph. The next test, intended to take place in September 2013, will be the most difficult yet: actual orbital insertion, followed by a controlled landing over water.


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