SpaceX s Grasshopper: Reusable Rocket Prototype

SpaceX’s Grasshopper: Reusable Rocket Prototype

Grasshopper was a reusable vertical-takeoff-and-landing rocket prototype tested by the company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in preparation for more ambitious launches. After progressively higher hops and pinpoint landings in two years, SpaceX wrapped up the program in 2013 to move resources into the Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage of several versions of the Falcon 9 rocket have splashed down successfully, and SpaceX is now aiming to land the rocket on an automated barge. Several barge-landing attempts have been made since 2015, but the rocket has not survived any of them yet. SpaceX, however, says that it is getting close to success and that the technology is possible to make the pinpoint landing happen.

Grasshopper was the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which the company still uses today for the Dragon cargo spacecraft flights to the station. Test flights ran between 2012 and 2013 and were successful, according to SpaceX.

First announced in September 2011, Grasshopper was one piece of SpaceX’s desire to make a fully reusable system that will fly cargo and people to and from space. Traditionally, rockets have been considered “throwaway” items, with few exceptions (such as the space shuttle’s external solid rocket boosters.)

SpaceX’s vision then included fly-back first and second stages on the rocket as well as a spacecraft that can land on land. The Dragon spacecraft currently lands on the water, similar to how the Apollo spacecraft used to do. The human-rated version of the spacecraft will also initially land on water, but later versions are expected to reach solid ground with the stabilizing help of Dragon’s SuperDraco engines.

“We will see if this works,” SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk said when announcing Grasshopper. “And if it does work, it’ll be pretty huge.”

The six-foot flight

The first test flight of the rocket took place Sept. 21, 2012, when Grasshopper made a quick six-foot (1.8-meter) jump up and down at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas. With each subsequent flight, the company then tried to shoot a bit higher or do something different.

The next test in November saw the rocket go about 18 feet (5.5 m) in the air, and then a big test in December saw the rocket soar more than 130 feet (39.6 m) high.

Over several test flights in 2013, Grasshopper demonstrated an ability to fight back against wind gusts, as well as to move sideways in the air to its target. It also flew several hundred feet high on a few occasions. The company filmed the rocket flights from the air using autonomous aircraft, providing high-definition views that it uploaded to the Web for sharing.

Among Grasshopper’s notable flights was a jump in April 2013 that saw the 10-story vehicle fly 820 feet (250 m) high. In June 2013, Grasshopper leaped 1,066 feet (325 m) and made a near-perfect landing. A subsequent flight test in August included a 100-foot lateral or sideways maneuver before the rocket touched down safely on the ground.

The program capped off Oct. 7, 2013, when the rocket flew 2,441 feet (744 m) into the air, making a flawless takeoff and landing in a flight that lasted about 79 seconds. SpaceX then decided to retire the prototype in favor of using the personnel and money for other programs, notably the Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon landing attempts

On April 18, 2014, SpaceX made a world-first controlled splashdown of the first stage of a Falcon 9, during a Dragon spacecraft resupply run to the International Space Station.

After several water landings, SpaceX tried to make a world-first attempt for a barge landing in January 2015 during a cargo flight to the International Space Station. The first landing made it on target, but the rocket landed hard enough to damage some of the support equipment on the ship, according to Musk.

Another attempt was called off in February 2015 when on landing day, the barge was facing 3-meter waves (almost 10 feet) and also had a malfunction in one of its four thrusters, making it tough to stabilize the ship. SpaceX instead elected for a water landing, which it pulled off successfully.

SpaceX also made hard landings on the ship in rocket flights in April 2015 and January 2016. The first malfunction was partly traced to a problem with the control system, while the second failed because one of the landing legs did not latch. SpaceX did, however, land the rocket’s first stage safely on land (near its launch site at the Kennedy Space Center) in a December 2015 flight.

Musk’s ultimate goal is to establish a colony on Mars by bringing the cost of spaceflight down as much as he can. Launch costs are considered one of the toughest things to overcome, since it takes a lot of fuel and velocity for a rocket to fight against Earth’s gravity to bring items into space.

www.space.com

China’s Linkspace is readying its own version of SpaceX’s Grasshopper test rocket

The Linkspace RLV-T5 (NewLine Baby) test launch vehicle, with the smaller RLV-T3 to the right. Linkspace

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Chinese space launch startup Linkspace appears close to testing a tech demonstrator reusable rocket similar in utility to the Grasshopper rocket SpaceX used in its development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

The RLV-T5 technology demonstrator will attempt vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) and is designed to verify key technologies including variable thrust, multiple engine restarts and roll control with its flight and recovery tests, according to a press release (Chinese).

This follows development of smaller scale rockets such as the RLV-T3 for VTVL and hover tests performed early in 2018, similar to demonstrations by Masten Space Systems.

Earlier this month Linkspace held successful ignition tests with five RLV-T5 engines, creating the colourful shock diamonds or Mach rings seen in the exhaust plume.

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Shock diamonds or Mach rings seen in the exhaust plume of the RLV-T5 engines tested by Linkspace. Linkspace

Linkspace says it will create ‘new milestones’ for retrievable rockets in China in the coming months, and in 2019 will test the next iteration, the suborbital RLV-T6.

American firm SpaceX took a similar route, using the Grasshopper as a technology demonstrator on the way to developing its Falcon 9 rocket, which has revolutionised the launch market. The latest iteration is capable of delivering 5,500 kg to geostationary transfer orbit with a recoverable first stage while greatly reducing the cost of access to space.

The goal for Linkspace after the RLV-T6 is debuting the NewLine-1 orbital rocket ( 新干线一号 /Xin Gan Xian 1) in 2020, with a recoverable and reusable first stage.

The NewLine-1 two-stage liquid propellant launcher will be capable of carrying 200 kg of micro and nanosats to Sun-synchronous orbit up to an altitude of 500 kilometres. No clear specifications for potential NewLine-2 or later launch vehicles have been presented.

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Render of a NewLine-1 rocket under development by Linkspace. Linkspace

Early start but longer path

The company was founded in January 2014—ahead of a Chinese government policy change later that year that opened up the space sector—making it the first private launch firm in China.

The late 2014 policy shift opened the door to commercial small satellite and launch vehicle companies, with access to technologies being facilitated by the national military-civilian integration strategy.

However in going straight for VTVL capabilities, which have so far been developed in the US but not China, Linkspace has had to progress from a situation of technological immaturity.

Meanwhile fellow startups iSpace and OneSpace, with a level of access to existing solid-propellant technologies developed by space and defence contractors, have this year launched two suborbital rockets each since April, with the last being filmed from orbit by a commercial Jilin-1 video satellite.

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Animation showing v > Sina Weibo/CGST

Landspace held their first launch on Saturday, attempting to go straight into orbit. An issue with the third stage however saw the spacecraft with its Weila-1 small satellite payload fail to reach orbit and fall into the Indian Ocean. However OneSpace could attempt to go orbital as soon as the end of the year.

If NewLine-1 is successfully developed and proven to be reliable, economical and even rapidly reusable, such capabilities could help reduce launch costs but also limit the dangers of launching inland, which frequently result in rocket debris landing in inhabited areas.

CASC, the main contractor for the space programme, is also working on VTVL and reusability, with subsidiaries CALT and SAST working on recoverable Long March 8 and upgraded Long March 6 launch vehicles, as well as putting parachutes on spent boosters and parafoils on fairings.

gbtimes.com

SpaceX’s 10-Story Re-useable Grasshopper Rocket Takes a Bigger Hop

SpaceX is developing the “Grasshopper” reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing rocket. Back in September, the 32-meter- (106-ft-) tall Grasshopper made a tiny hop – barely lifting off the pad just to test-fire its engines. But now the Grasshopper has made a second, bigger hop. Over the weekend, Elon Musk quietly tweeted a link to a video, saying, “First flight of 10 story tall Grasshopper rocket using closed loop thrust vector & throttle control.” Update: SpaceX later confirmed that the Grasshopper rose “17.7 feet (5.4 meters), hovered, and touched back down safely on the pad at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.”

SpaceX hasn’t talked much about this rocket, but reportedly the goal with Grasshopper is to eventually create a reusable first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, which would be able to land safely instead of falling back into the ocean and not being usable again.

Artist’s rendering of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landing itself. Credit: SpaceX

Here’s some info about the Grasshopper from a draft environmental impact assessment put out by the FAA in 2011:

The Grasshopper RLV consists of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. Carbon overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which are filled with either nitrogen or helium, are attached to the support structure. The Merlin-1D engine has a maximum thrust of 122,000 pounds. The overall height of the Grasshopper RLV is 106 feet, and the tank height is 85 feet.

The propellants used in the Grasshopper RLV include a highly refined kerosene fuel, called RP-1, and liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer.

The reports goes on to say that the Grasshopper test program is to have three phases of test launches, at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas. Phases 1 and 2 would consist of very low test fires with the rocket rising to not more than 73 meters (240 feet) during Phase 1 and 204 meters (670 feet), which is below controlled-airspace. Both Phase 1 and 2 flights would last up to 45 seconds.

Phase 3 tests have the goal of increasingly higher altitudes with higher ascent speeds and descent speeds. The altitude test sequence likely would be 366 meters (1,200 feet); 762 meters (2,500 feet); 1,524 meters (5,000 feet); 2,286 meters (7,500 feet); and 3,505 meters (11,500) feet. The maximum test duration would be approximately 160 seconds. If all goes well, the Grasshopper would land back on the launch pad.

Here’s Grasshopper’s first little test hop in September, which SpaceX said went 2 meters (6 feet):

Look for more details on this exciting reusable rocket as SpaceX continues its tests of the Grasshopper.

www.universetoday.com

SpaceX’s Reusable Grasshopper Rocket Has A Successful Test

One of the things that makes space travel so expensive is the fact that rockets, for the most part, can’t be reused. So everytime you launch something into orbit, you have to rebuild part of the vehicle. So it’s been a long-term goal of many space organizations, both public and private, to build a fully reusable launch system. To date, however, the best anyone’s been able to do is to only be able to reuse parts of a rocket.

Earlier this week, however, SpaceX took itself one step closer to its goal of a reusable rocket with a successful test of its “Grasshopper” rocket, which consists of the first stage of one of their Falcoln 9 rockets, but with a vertical takeoff and landing system. The rocket traveled 12 stories into the air, hovered for a little bit, then safely landed back down on the ground. The total flight lasted for 29 seconds.

(Also, to give people an idea of how big the Grasshopper is, SpaceX CEO tweeted this image, which shows a six-foot tall dummy of a cowboy on board the rocket.)

With the success of this test, SpaceX plans on continuing testing over the next few months, pushing it towards its goal of a successful orbital flight and landing.

Check out a video of the Grasshopper in action below:

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

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Gallery: SpaceX Falcon Rocket Successfully Launches

SpaceX’s planned reusable first-stage rocket, dubbed “Grasshopper”, successfully flew 12 stories in a test earlier this week.

One of the things that makes space travel so expensive is the fact that rockets, for the most part, can’t be reused. So everytime you launch something into orbit, you have to rebuild part of the vehicle. So it’s been a long-term goal of many space organizations, both public and private, to build a fully reusable launch system. To date, however, the best anyone’s been able to do is to only be able to reuse parts of a rocket.

Earlier this week, however, SpaceX took itself one step closer to its goal of a reusable rocket with a successful test of its “Grasshopper” rocket, which consists of the first stage of one of their Falcoln 9 rockets, but with a vertical takeoff and landing system. The rocket traveled 12 stories into the air, hovered for a little bit, then safely landed back down on the ground. The total flight lasted for 29 seconds.

(Also, to give people an idea of how big the Grasshopper is, SpaceX CEO tweeted this image, which shows a six-foot tall dummy of a cowboy on board the rocket.)

With the success of this test, SpaceX plans on continuing testing over the next few months, pushing it towards its goal of a successful orbital flight and landing.

Check out a video of the Grasshopper in action below:

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

www.forbes.com

SpaceX’s Reusable ‘Grasshopper’ Rocket Soars in Highest Test Flight Yet (Video)

An experimental reusable rocket prototype built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX has made its highest leap yet, soaring more than 2,000 feet above its Texas proving ground as a camera captured the eye-popping test.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket made the giant leap on Oct. 7 and climbed 2,441 feet (744 meters) into the air before safely landing back on its launch pad in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX officials unveiled the amazing video of Grasshopper’s highest hop yet on Saturday (Oct. 12).

The video shows Grasshopper flying high into the air while the hexacopter, already aloft, records the flight with video camera eye. The multirotor, unmanned drone captures an incredible shot of the rocket as it begins its descent. The entire test takes less than 1.5 minutes from liftoff to landing. [SpaceX’s Grasshopper, the Amazing Reusable Rocket (Photos)]

“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,” SpaceX officials wrote in a video description. “The Grasshopper VTVL [Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing] vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.”

A Grasshopper launch in August demonstrated the reusable vehicle’s ability to hop sideways while in midair. For that test, the experimental rocket launched to an altitude of 820 feet (250 m), hovered, moved 328 feet (100 m) sideways and then returned to the launch pad.

The most recent test is only the latest in a series of ever-higher flights for Grasshopper. Previous launches took place in September, November and December of 2012. During those flights, Grasshopper reached altitudes of 8.2 feet (2.5 m), 17.7 feet (5.4 m) and 131 feet (40 m) respectively. Its highest hops in March and April of 2013 took the reusable rocket to peak altitudes of 263 feet (80 m) and 820 feet (250 m). In June, Grasshopper climbed to an altitude of 1,066 feet (325 m) before safely maneuvering back to the ground.

The Grasshopper rocket, known at SpaceX as the Falcon 9 test rig, is about 10 stories tall. It uses the first-stage tank of the Falcon 9 — the rocket used to launch the company’s Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. Grasshopper only uses one Merlin engine unlike the Falcon 9, which sports nine of the privately developed rocket engines as its name suggests.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based private spaceflight company holds a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 unmanned supply runs to the station. SpaceX has flown two of those cargo missions for NASA already, with the next visit to the station scheduled for early 2014.

news.yahoo.com

SpaceX’s Reusable Grasshopper Rocket Hits Record Height

Play

With all the attention that Tesla Motors gets, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Elon Musk has other companies. But a recent update to SpaceX’s YouTube channel showed that one of Musk’s other big businesses is still hard at work.

The new video shows Grasshopper, SpaceX’s re-usable rocket, setting a height record for that model, soaring 744 meters above the arid landscape of Texas.

But it’s not the rocket’s altitude that should get people excited, said Daniel Erwin, a professor of astronautical engineering at the University of Southern California. “It reached less than a mile in height,” he told ABC News. “But this isn’t really an altitude test as much as it is testing the ability to land.”

The video shows the Grasshopper making a controlled landing to the same spot it launched from. That ability to land is key, since Grasshopper is engineered to be used multiple times.

SpaceX’s rocket isn’t the first piece of re-usable space hardware. NASA’s Space Shuttle debuted in 1982 and lasted for nearly three decades of service, though Erwin is hesitant to call it truly reusable. “It had to be torn down and its parts re-machined each time,” he said. “It was almost worse than building something from scratch.”

NASA’s activity may be on hold due to the government shutdown, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be American space launches. “I think most people think that spaceflight is mostly a government project, but it hasn’t been that way for the past decade,” said Erwin. “A large number of launches don’t have any government involvement except for coordination with the FAA.”

While Grasshopper has performed well on tests, it is not yet ready to be used in SpaceX missions to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. According to SpaceX’s Facebook page, last week’s launch is also the last scheduled test for Grasshopper for the near future. SpaceX will instead test the F9R, a different type of re-usable space vehicle.

Despite SpaceX’s decision to stop test launches with Grasshopper, researchers such as Erwin are optimistic about Musk and his company taking on these types of ambitious spacecraft projects.

“Elon has demonstrated that he and his company can get things done that people said couldn’t be done,” said Erwin. “We’re all kind of excited, but of course we’ll wait and see how it pans out.”

abcnews.go.com

Watch: SpaceX Grasshopper Rocket Launch Reaches Record Height

Watch: SpaceX Grasshopper Rocket Launch Reaches Record Height

We realize we’re suckers for these videos. But when the simple act of filming an impressive rocket flight looks so damned impressive, it’s hard to blow it off as just another video from SpaceX. This time the company’s Grasshopper test vehicle flies to yet another record height of 2,440 feet above SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas test facility. And once again it was filmed using a hexacopter mounted with a high-def camera.

The flight took place on October 7, with engineers continuing to fine tune the vertical take off and landing rocket. The hexacopter operator is doing some fine tuning as well, getting closer than ever before, and as the Grasshopper descends, the hexacopter converges with the flight path before filming the landing from nearly directly above the rocket.

There is also a noticeable secondary flame during part of the descent from the turbopump, which is located on the side of the main engine. In addition to operating as a high pressure fuel and oxidizer pump for the Merlin engine, the turbopump is also used to provide high pressure kerosene as a hydraulic fluid for the thrust vectoring controls. For the Falcon 9’s second stage engine, the thrust from the turbopump plume also provides roll control.

The Grasshopper test program is part of SpaceX’s plan to create a reusable first stage rocket engine for the Falcon 9. Currently, the first stage of the rocket, like all rockets before it, falls back to earth and effectively crash lands into the ocean. SpaceX wants to carry a little extra propellant on board the Falcon 9 so that the first stage can return to earth in a controlled flight, land, and be refurbished for future flights, saving cash.

SpaceX recently announced it is opting to slightly delay two upcoming Falcon 9 launches. The commercial satellite launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida will be pushed back a bit, with the first scheduled no earlier than November 12. The company says it is working on the rocket’s second stage after a launch on September 29. During that flight from Vandenberg Air Force base in California – the first for an upgrade Falcon 9 v1.1 – an attempt to relight the second stage engine did not go as planned.

The payloads were successfully deployed to their proper orbits, but the the issue with the second stage relight led the company to push back the next flights as they work on the solution to the issue.

www.wired.com

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