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SpaceX Grasshopper (reusable launcher testbed) tests


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#1 DocM

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 07:39

Separate thread now that SpaceX's Grasshopper reusable launcher testbed is actually doing test flights and not just hops oc a few meters.

Height: 32m
Diameter: 3.66m
Engine: Merlin 1D - 650 kN / 147,000 lbf, throttleable

A second version of Grasshopper will be 50% taller, in line with the Falcon 9 v1.1 tank stretch, have a lighter thrust structure (engine mount) and have legs that fold up along its sides while in flight - akin to those on their "Future" Falcon RLV concept of operations (CONOPS) reusable launcher video (bottom)

The FAA license for Grasshopper tests at SpaceX's McGregor, Texas test facility covers flights up to 3,500m / 11,500ft. Higher than that, and supersonic flights, will be done at the White Sands Missile Range.

SPACEX’S GRASSHOPPER TAKES GIANT LEAP TOWARDS REUSABILITY WITH 12-STORY FLIGHT

SpaceX’s Grasshopper took a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds.

Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

The 12-story flight marks a significant increase over the height and length of hover of Grasshopper’s previous test flights, which took place earlier this fall. In September, Grasshopper flew to 1.8 meters (6 feet), and in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet/2 stories) including a brief hover.

Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successively more sophisticated flights expected over the next several months.


Single-camera -


Multi-camera -


Falcon RLV CONOPS -



#2 IsItPluggedIn

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 01:56

Hey Doc,

That looks sweet, do they have any time frame on getting the 3 stages completed?

#3 OP DocM

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:55

The Grasshopper programs FAA flight approval is for a 3 year program at their McGregor Texas test facility, but at this pace it may not take that long to get to a larger missile range like White Sands with Grasshopper 2.0.

Then the real fun starts; GH2 gets the longer gen-2 Falcon 9 v1.1 tanks and thrust structure, folding landing gear, and possibly a full 9 engine pack. The first F9 v1.1 flies early in 2013 from Vandenberg AFB in California, so those parts are already in production.

If it all works out, these techs will go into their 3rd generation launchers, most likely using larger methane fueled engines evolved from the staged combustion (more efficient) Raptor upper stage engine that's already in development.

Methane is the future. Cheaper, easier engine refurbs, higher efficiency, etc. than RP-1 (rocket-grade kerosine) and far easier handling and les tankage & fuel system degradation than liquid hydrogen. Methane can also be made from the atmosphere and ices of Mars.

The Dragon spacecraft is, of course, already flying to the ISS and the SuperDrago escape/landing thrusters are deep into development and nearing integration into Dragon itself. There will 4 pairs for a total of 8, which gives redundancy - it can lose 2 and keep flying.

When crewed Dragon (aka: DragonRider) test flights start ~2015 the SuperDraco's will initially be used to do a Soyuz-style landing (parachutes down to 10 meters, then thrusters to land), and fully propulsive landing tests will commence shortly after.

The 2nd stage would be last. It'll most likely go into orbit, do its satellite orbital insertions (it can do several), do a retro-fire, re-enter using SpaceX's high-end PICA-X heat shield on its top, free-fall to a few hundred meters, then land using SuperDraco's positioned around the bottom prrimeter.

Their PICA-X heat shield was developed to out-perform NASA's best heat shield, the original PICA, and can handle re-entries from not only orbital returns or from the Moon but also Mars - over 30,000 mph.

#4 AnotherITguy

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:08

Unreal, loving how space hardware is evolving so quickly, now if only the Space Launch System could move this quick that would be something else

#5 OP DocM

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 16:51

SLS has a lot of political backing, buf its weakness is bang-for-buck. It and Orion could well eat up $30 billion by 2030, leaving little money for actual missions. SLS's base version is 70 mT and its top version is 130 mT - if they can fund it and not everyone is convinced they can. Cost per launch is going to approach $1 billion.

OTOH, SpaceX is already talking about a super-heavy launcher with an even higher lift to LEO - estimates are 150-200 mT (metric tons). Their development cost estimates are under $4 billion.

Even without a super-heavy SpaceX could push SLS on cost alone using Falcon Heavy. With a kerosine 2nd stage its expected to loft 53 mT, and possibly 70+ mT with a methane 2nd stage. Cost: kerosine = $133 million, unknown for methane but probanly far less than $250 million. 2 launches would exceed SLS's lift and be cheaper. The first Falcon Heavy is prepping for flight in early 2014.

Mr. Musk wants to go to Mars, with or without NASA, and later this year he's to roll out details on a project called MCT. One SpaceX employee says this stands for 'Mars Colony Transport'. No one is laughing.

#6 OP DocM

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 22:55

Info just came over the transom that SpaceX may try to return a Falcon 9 v1.1 core during one of the next few test flights. This attempt would be without landing legs, and likely set down in the waters just off the coast, but it would prove the principle. It has to be a v1.1 because the only remaining v1.0 cored flight is CRS-2 to the ISS, which launches in 8-10 weeks.

Since the only scheduled "test" flights using v1.1 cores are the Falcon 9 v1.1 and Falcon Heavy maiden flights, the 2 USAF qualification flights of both, and the unmanned DragonRider launch abort test are the likely candidates.

#7 OP DocM

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 16:58

Johnny Cash Hover Slam?

Launch, hover, shut down the engines, free-fall a bit, re-light the engine & stick the landing?

If so, whoa!

If a fail, you get a 'Ring of Fire'?

https://twitter.com/...234184193105920

Elon Musk

Next Grasshopper rocket test is called the Johnny Cash Hover Slam (yeah baby!). Might be our first smoking crater...



#8 IsItPluggedIn

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 02:16

Both outcomes would be exciting.

I want to see them make a crater but i'd also like to see the succeed.

Do we have a date on when this is happening?

#9 OP DocM

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 02:40

Only generally. When Elon tweets something like that it's peobably within a month of their test date.

There has also been significant activity at the McGregor test site, some of which could be connected to another Grasshopper test but also obviously the building of a HUGE new test stand.

It looks like the old tripod stand used for Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 v1.0 is being decommissioned or added to, the new one being able to handle anything up to Falcon Heavy and whatever monster (MCT or Falcon X?) comes after it. Satellite photos show a huge new flame trench and a monster water tower (which previous statements say will be >500,000 gallons.)

Whatever, it won't be dull.

#10 OP DocM

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 06:52

Tweets by SpaceX'ers Thursday. Sounds like a new video will be making an appearance :)

RT @GraehamF: Woohoo! Go Go Gadget Grasshopper! @SpaceX #space #weLiveInTheFuture

RT @alias_amanda YEEEEHAW!!! That is all.


Rumors are that in today's hop GH descended faster than before, and "stuck" the landing. Next time they plan on a shutdown-restart.

#11 drsnooker

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 21:56



#12 logicwin

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 22:10

you technically just got someone in trouble by posting that seeing as the description says to keep it private

#13 OP DocM

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 22:38

The embargo ended some time ago, so no harm. First showing was at Musk's SXSW interview at 2:00 PM, which was UStreamed.The text was included for the private upload during the embargo, but not removed when it went public.

262 feet, mainly to test updated avionics code and go higher. We'll see more of this as they plan on using the a ionics code to attempt a water touchdown after the maiden Falcon 9 v1.1 launch in late June from Vandenberg. Moving FAST.

Looks like the legs got a little cooked :)

#14 AnotherITguy

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 00:05

So, are there any specific timelines for when:

I. Stage one of the grasshopper will be done?
II. The upper stage of grasshopper will hit operational capability?
III. And lastly, when can the dragon expected to land on its on feet?

Other than that, im loving how SPACEX is smoking Nasa's rear, funny thing is, S.L.S is behind several year, and 2014 is the first test flight with just the capsule, shame...NASA could use the FALCON 9 to go to deep space

#15 OP DocM

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 02:03

So, are there any specific timelines for when:

I. Stage one of the grasshopper will be done?


The FAA license for GH 1 tests with the current Falcon 9 v1.0 tank has a 3 year lifetime and they're limited to 11,500 feet. Given that most people had thought it would take 5+ years to get to a first stage recovery test, but SpaceX just announced that they're going to attempt to turn the first stage around and touch down on water (minus landing gear) this coming June (!!) with the first Falcon 9 v1.1 flight. Wow.

Now all bets are off. IF they pull it off in June GH 2 will likely just test the landing gear, and its tank is already vertical & undergoing structural tests. Aggressive, they are.

II. The upper stage of grasshopper will hit operational capability?



Probably 2 years after the first stage & DragonRider do it. See III. That said, who knows? If the June water touchdown test goes well they might start working on it sooner.

III. And lastly, when can the dragon expected to land on its on feet?


Two development phases, both using the DragonRider crew variant and the new SuperDraco (SD) thrusters which are alreay deep into testing. Launch abort tests using the SD's are scheduled for less than a year away. Phase 1 is landing Soyuz style; parachutes down to about 10-15 meters then the SD thrusters to land, and Phase 2 where it's propulsive all the way down.

The first crewed DragonRider flight is in 2015 and it will use the Phase 1 system per the CCiCap agreement with NASA. Most observers expect an unmanned Phase 2 full propulsive landing test shortly after using a previously flown cargo Dragon retrofitted with the SuperDraco thruster pack. Might be sooner at the rate they're going.

Other than that, im loving how SPACEX is smoking Nasa's rear, funny thing is, S.L.S is behind several year, and 2014 is the first test flight with just the capsule, shame...NASA could use the FALCON 9 to go to deep space


Falcon Heavy is the one for flights to, say, the moon or near beyond Earth orbit missions. Beyond that we're looking at the 7 meter diameter core, notionally called BFR (big f'ing rocket). Falcon X or Falcon XX. More on it later this year if all goes well.