Oct 14, 2013 02:29 PM EDT
SpaceX Launched 'Grasshopper' Rocket 2,400 Feet in the Air, Touches Down on Ground Without a Problem (VIDEO)
In an impressive see-it-to-believe-it video, SpaceX's "Grasshopper" vehicle launched about a quarter of a mile into the air from the ground and landed again in the same spot.
RedOrbit reported the modified Falcon 9 rocket is designed to launch straight up and land vertically as well. The project is meant to build a reusable rocket that can provide astronauts in space with supplies then touch back down on Earth.
Typically, rockets are designed to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere upon reentry. The Grasshopper is not only designed to withstand reentry, but to be able to land itself in the same spot it took off from.
The rocket is equipped with a Falcon 9 first stage tank, a Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs equipped with hydraulic hampers and a steel support structure.
The Grasshopper, a Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket standing ten stories high, is SpaceX's biggest development toward its ultimate goal of building a reusable rocket. According to CEO Elon Musk, also the head of Tesla Motors, the VTVL will drastically cut the cost of sending supplies into space.
This test, performed Oct. 7 was Grasshoppers biggest task yet, accomplishing a leap of 2,400 feet and a successful landing. In Sept. 2012, the VTVL leaped a mere 8.2 feet, then 131 feet in Dec. Its largest task, by far, is still ahead as it must prove its ability to achieve its goal by ascending into the atmosphere where rockets typically burn up and then land safely back on Earth.
The Sept. launch was the debut of the Falcon 9 rocket when it launched the Dragon spacecraft to a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket used three stages to launch into its targeted orbit and a fourth to land in the Pacific Ocean.
Musk acknowledged the fourth stage did not go entirely according to plan as it hit the water much harder than anticipated. He said this was an issue his engineers would work to fix in the future.
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