On Nov. 1, 2012, SpaceX’s Grasshopper – a 10-story vertical takeoff and landing vehicle – lifted nearly two stories in an 8-second duration test hop. The rocket rose 17.7 feet, hovered, and touched back down safely on the pad at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure. For a sense of its scale, note the blue pick-up truck to the left of Grasshopper. The Grasshopper program is a critical step toward developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would allow a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere. Higher lift tests are continuing.
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