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Leaping SpaceX GRASSHOPPER ROCKET jumps 2,500ft, lands safely

Musk's stick breaks own record

SpaceX Grasshopper

Elon Musk's Grasshooper vehicle has inched a little closer to becoming a viable VTVL (vertical takeoff, vertical landing) rocket, last week completing its highest flight to date.

A video published by SpaceX on YouTube shows the ten-storey-tall jumper reaching 744 metres in altitude (a snip over 2,500 feet) before performing its now-routine rocket powered descent and touchdown.

Along with the divert test conducted in August, in which Grasshopper executed a lateral manoeuvre that took it 100 metres from its launch pad and back, the project is nearing a point where SpaceX will test it in a real-world configuration.

Grasshopper is based on the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with a Merlin 1D engine. In nearly* every space-faring craft ever built, the launcher is a throwaway that burns up or drops in the ocean.

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SpaceX wants to cut the cost of launches by creating reusable boosters that return to the launchpad. That's because most of the cost of a liftoff is isn't in the fuel (around $200,000 for each flight) but embedded in the use-once-and-discard launchers.

With a fully-developed Grasshopper, the first stage would become reusable, at the cost of some extra fuel and sundry engineering efforts. ®

Bootnote

A reader has taken me to task on the basis that the X15 didn't drop anything into the ocean. Ok, so in nearly every space-faring craft, the booster drops into the ocean. In my defence, the X15 reached near-space and didn't use separate boosters anyhow.

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