SpaceX Grasshopper takes a leap into a 'ring of fire'

March 12, 2013 by Nancy Atkinson
The SpaceX Grasshopper during its test flight on March 7, 2013. Credit: SpaceX

Last week, SpaceX's Grasshopper took its highest leap ever, doubling its past flights. On March 7, 2013, the vertical and takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle, rose 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet), hovered for approximately 34 seconds and then landed safely – and more accurately than ever before. The goal of Grasshopper is to eventually create a reusable first stage for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which would be able to land safely instead of falling back into the ocean and not being usable again.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed this video this weekend during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, calling the 's flight a "Johnny Cash Hover Slam," since the video includes Cash's iconic song, "Ring of Fire." A cowboy dummy was strapped to the side of the rocket for good measure (and perhaps good luck, since the previous test fight included the cowboy).

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The test was completed at 's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

This is Grasshopper's fourth in a series of test flights, with each test demonstrating exponential increases in altitude. Last September, Grasshopper flew to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) and in December, it flew to 40 meters (131 feet).

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

Explore further: SpaceX completes important 'wet dress' rehearsal test for upcoming flight to space station

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5 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2013
Hilarious, and extremely impressive. I assume they're using thrust vectoring?
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2013

That is so cool.

What's the exhaust off to the side of the Venturi? I assume its the turbine exhaust, but would like to know for sure.
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2013
Straight up and down. Just like God and Robert Heinlein intended.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2013
According to their site, SpaceX designed the Dragon spacecraft to one day transport crewmembers to and from space. An animation shows how they intend to return them to the surface. It's really quite impressive, as they are experimenting with Grasshopper to prove that their method actually works. Outstanding. Continued success to SpaceX.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2013
I love the number of significant digits used to describe the distances traveled!

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