SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket sets another high mark with 820-foot hop

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 23, 2013 1:28 PM GMT
    "Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry, SpaceX's rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing."

    When I was a kid the science fiction envisioned all rockets landing this way. The actual solution when spaceflight began was to use Earth reentry vehicles with heat shields and parachutes, later the Shuttle, and to let most rocket launch vehicles destruct after use. This looks like back to the future to my eyes. I wonder if it's cost-effective, though?



    http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/23/17869268-spacexs-grasshopper-rocket-sets-another-high-mark-with-820-foot-hop
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 23, 2013 4:30 PM GMT
    If they are able to do it, it will make all launches dramatically more cost-effective, because they will no longer be throwing away the whole rocket after every flight.

    Of course, that's what the shuttle was supposed to do also... icon_rolleyes.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 23, 2013 8:13 PM GMT
    mindgarden saidIf they are able to do it, it will make all launches dramatically more cost-effective, because they will no longer be throwing away the whole rocket after every flight.

    Of course, that's what the shuttle was supposed to do also... icon_rolleyes.gif

    Correct. The shuttle's 2 solid rocket boosters (SRBs) would detach at under 30 miles and parachute back into the ocean, where they were recovered and reused. The main liquid fuel tank is the only "sacrificial" part that falls out of low-earth orbit and is destroyed. But it contain's no rocket engines, the most expensive components, which are part of the shuttle and return with it to Earth.

    So there was an attempt at recycling as much of the shuttle launch system as possible. But in practice the complex technology itself added greatly to the cost, and the shuttle never really did prove to be a cheaper way to go.

    Some NASA engineers continued to argue that simply using a "big dumb rocket" was ultimately the cheaper way to launch payloads into space, at no risk to human lives. The shuttle did make sense for missions where having a human in space was essential. But some shuttle missions could have been accomplished by a simple unmanned rocket, if we'd had one large enough during that period.