Friday, December 28, 2012

'One Small Hop for a Grasshopper...' SpaceX's Reusable Rocket

"Experimental Private Rocket Makes Highest Test Hop Yet"
Miriam Kramer, (December 26, 2012)

"A privately built rocket prototype that could lead to a completely reusable spaceflight system has passed its biggest test yet - a 12-story hop and smooth landing.

"The experimental reusable rocket, called the Grasshopper, made its highest and longest flight yet on Dec. 17, marking the prototype's third successful test by the private spaceflight company SpaceX.

"In the latest test at SpaceX's proving grounds in MacGregor, Texas, the Grasshopper rocket flew for 29 seconds and reached a height of more than 130 feet (40 meters). A video of the Grasshopper test flight shows the rocket soaring up into the Texas sky, then smoothly descending to land on four spindly legs...."

We're a long way from routine commercial flights to orbital hotels, research labs, and way-stations to the stars: but the Grasshopper is an important step in that direction. Or hop.

What's important about the SpaceX Grasshopper and other reusable launch vehicles is that they're - reusable. Even the Space Shuttle had throwaway booster rockets and fuel tanks. That's okay for government-funded flights to the International Space Station: but no way to run an airline. Spaceline?

Think about it: how long would a commercial air carrier last, if the company had to throw away most of each airliner after one flight?

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