SpaceX’s Grasshopper Rocket Soars Higher Than Ever

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

Space travel used to be considered ridiculously impossible, back in the days before civilizations actually knew what they were seeing when they looked up. But when various countries actually started sending spacecraft up there, beyond the gray skies, it was just deemed ridiculously expensive. One only has to take a cursory glance at the U.S. government, amidst mountains of piled debt, to understand why most of our country’s off-Earth travel plans are in the think tanks of privatized companies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Rich people deserve space love, too.

With its Grasshopper rocket, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has revolutionized the concept of vehicular recycling, and the company recently released this gorgeous video that captures yet another successful launch and landing. This latest test occurred on June 14 at the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas. But this was a little different than previous endeavors, as it was the first time the Grasshopper “made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing.” This also marks the highest the rocket has ever flown.

The “F9-R” refers to the Falcon 9-Reusable prototype, which makes the Grasshopper a true suborbital reusable launch vehicle (RLV). The exceedingly precise sensor system it uses makes the vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) aspect of its protocol much easier; no Leaning Towers happening over here.

After a number of successful tests of differing heights, the only place left to go is up, right? This latest flight took the Grasshopper up to 1,066 ft (325 m), over 200 feet higher than the previous launch, and it only took an additional seven seconds, for a 68-second duration.

As astonishingly cool as that is, it’s made even better for us armchair space enthusiasts by being able to watch it from the point-of-view of a camera strapped to a hexacopter floating high in the Texas sky. Not that I’m knocking rocket launch videos that are shot horizontally from a great distance, but it’s so surreal to see a rocket blast off into the air over expansive fields of green. Now if only they could get that nearby water tower up in the air as well. Fight! Fight! Fight!

With Virgin Galactic performing their own triumphant test flights, the new millennium space race is heating up. SpaceX is also interested in setting up ISS supply missions instead of just allowing rich people to soar above the globe. So it isn’t a race towards any specific goal as much as it is a ratings game. And as far as I’m concerned, SpaceX gets the square.

Check out one of their last tests below. The use of natural sound in the video makes this worth finding some headphones.

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