Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), the space transport company founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, has hit another significant milestone. SpaceX launched and landed their Grasshopper rocket at a height of 1,066 feet over their test facility in McGregor, Texas.
Grasshopper is essentially a prototype of what SpaceX wants to achieve with an improved version of their Falcon 9. This way Falcon 9 would be able to transport supplies to and from the International Space Station, while saving substantial costs.
The SpaceX Grasshopper flew 1,066 feet on June 14th. This is higher than the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. The Grasshopper used its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish the precision landing.
Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine their position, but generally they are not accurate enough compared to the type of sensors that the Grasshopper has. In the past, the Grasshopper relied on other rocket sensors, but this test had a higher accuracy sensor in the control loop. SpaceX directly controlled the vehicle based on new sensor readings, which adds a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance that was between the Grasshopper and the ground.
The Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that was designed to test the technologies needed for returning a rocket back to the Earth intact. The Grasshopper has a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, a Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.
To see the Grasshopper 325 meter (1,066 foot) test, check out the video below: